KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's northern state of Penang has barred entry for overseas visitors seeking medical treatment until it finalises new health and safety procedures in light of the coronavirus crisis, the chief minister said on Monday (Aug 17).
Authorities toughened curbs on movement in some parts of the island over the weekend, as new infections emerged after more than three months with no cases.
In a statement, the government said three Indonesian patients had arrived by special flights last Friday to be treated at private hospitals – two victims of cancer and one in need of immediate treatment.
"The state government deeply regrets that it was not informed of the 'sudden' arrival of the patients," Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said, announcing the ban.
The state did not say if the three had tested positive for COVID-19. But Penang authorities were told the patients had followed all the standard operating procedures, the chief minister said.
The ban will stay until the healthcare ministry finalises procedures to deal with healthcare tourism, he added.
AirAsia.com, the digital platform of budget airline AirAsia Group, said it flew its first medical charter flight to Penang from the Indonesian city of Medan on Friday, with another charter from Jakarta scheduled for next Monday.
Penang authorities have also ordered all agencies related to health tourism to provide notifications and information.
The country has detected a highly infectious mutation of the coronavirus, it said on Sunday, when the tally of cases stood at 9,200.