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Malaysia to negotiate with China for return of its citizens from Wuhan: PM Mahathir

Malaysia to negotiate with China for return of its citizens from Wuhan: PM Mahathir

Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad reacts during a news conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Sep 18, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng)

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia will initiate a negotiation as soon as possible with the Chinese government to bring home its citizens in Wuhan city, which has been locked down amid a coronavirus outbreak, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Wednesday (Jan 29).

“Right now, they (Malaysian citizens) are not allowed to leave Wuhan, but we want to negotiate with the Chinese government so that the Malaysian citizens who are not sick can (be allowed to) return to Malaysia,” he said in a press conference after a Cabinet meeting in Putrajaya.

READ: Malaysia confirms 3 more Wuhan virus cases, bringing total to 7

READ: Number infected by Wuhan virus rises to nearly 6,000 in China; death toll at 132

There are currently about 78 Malaysian citizens in Wuhan, Dr Mahathir said.

He said if China allows them to return, "they will be subjected to 14 days of quarantine to make sure that they are not suffering from infection by this virus”.

The prime minister added Malaysia also wishes to send aid in the form of food supply, face masks and gloves to Wuhan, following a report that some Malaysians in Wuhan are left with four days worth of food supply.

“We are interested to help Wuhan, so if we have to send a charter flight to evacuate our citizens from Wuhan, if allowed by the Chinese government, we will also bring food, gloves and face masks because they are facing supply shortage over there,” he explained.

READ: Foreigners prepare to flee as Wuhan virus death toll tops 100

READ: Japanese evacuated from Wuhan describe fear in virus epicentre

Asked how soon Malaysians in Wuhan can be brought home, Dr Mahathir said it depends on the permission from the Chinese government. He also noted that "Japan has taken back its people (from Wuhan) with permission from the Chinese government”.

"NO WORSENING OF SYMPTOMS"

On the condition of the seven Chinese nationals in Malaysia who were found positive with coronavirus, Dr Mahathir said so far the symptoms were not worsening.

“They are still here in hospital but they have to stay for a certain number of days. So far, no worsening of symptoms,” he said.

The prime minister also said Malaysia would continue banning Chinese nationals from Hubei province from entering the country.

“If they are from Wuhan and Hubei, they will be denied entry into Malaysia, but visitors from other places will be allowed to enter,” he said.

READ: Wuhan virus - Singapore to impose travel restrictions on holders of Chinese passports issued in Hubei

READ: Authorities working with China to bring home Singaporeans in Wuhan

Asked whether there is a need for thermal scanner machines to be installed at departure gates, Dr Mahathir said the government only worries about people coming into Malaysia.

“We want to prevent sick people from coming in, but if they (are) going out, we don't examine them,” he said.

But he expressed regret over the ban imposed on foreign tourists from visiting mosques in the country following the public concern on the threat of the novel coronavirus.

“This is not a policy of the government. We don’t prohibit tourists from visiting museums and mosques for fear that tourists from China may spread a disease there,” he said.

Dr Mahathir also rapped certain quarters who spread rumours and fake news on the coronavirus infection with ill intention to cause fear or racial tensions among the public.

“Press freedom is maintained in this country but spreading fake news and telling in order to cause a problem in Malaysia will not be tolerated and we will take action against them,” he said.

MORE: Our coverage on the Wuhan virus and its developments

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