VIENTIANE: Malaysia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Saifuddin Abdullah on Thursday (Feb 20) said he hopes Malaysia and Singapore will intensify cooperation at the busy Causeway in an effort to curb the COVID-19 outbreak.
Mr Saifuddin said he had an informal meeting with his Singaporean counterpart, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan at the sidelines of the Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Coronavirus Disease.
“I hope that officials in both countries will communicate and intensify their cooperation in handling the COVID-19 transmission at the Causeway.
“If we don’t do it properly, it will spread. Therefore, we need to monitor the Causeway together,” he was quoted as saying by Bernama.
The cross-border movement of commuters at the Causeway is estimated to be 250,000 a day.
Both countries earlier decided to form a joint working group, co-chaired by the respective deputy health ministers, to manage the COVID-19 outbreak. The first meeting is scheduled to take place next Tuesday.
One of the focus areas of the working group is cross-border case screening and management.
Twenty-two people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Malaysia. At least seven cases are said to have travelled to Singapore.
Mr Saifuddin also said ASEAN member states have offered to help China solve the COVID-19 problem and expressed their confidence that China could successfully cope with the outbreak.
He said the meeting in Vientiane, co-chaired by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines Teodoro Locsin Junior, marked the ASEAN member countries’ commitment to share information and enhance cooperation in the fight against the virus.
With the outbreak expected to continue in the next several months, all ASEAN countries and China have agreed to devise a strategy to reduce economic impact, the minister said.
“We understand that the virus will continue for several months.
“Therefore, we need to overcome the (challenges) of the economic issues, especially in the field of tourism,” Mr Saifuddin said.
“We need to have a mutual understanding, especially in terms of limiting tourist arrivals. No point for one country to be firm while others aren’t,” he added.
SECOND BATCH OF MALAYSIANS TO BE EVACUATED FROM WUHAN
Separately, Mr Saifuddin said Malaysia will bring home a second batch of citizens from Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, next Tuesday.
“We would like to thank (the Chinese government) for the assistance provided to bring the Malaysians back from Wuhan.
"Another trip (to bring home Malaysians) will be on Feb 25," he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail said on Friday that at least 75 people will be brought home, according to the New Straits Times.
Upon arrival, they will go through a 14-day quarantine at the Higher Education Leadership Academy in Negeri Sembilan, she told reporters after chairing a National Disaster Management Agency high-level meeting.
A total of 107 individuals, comprising Malaysians and their non-Malaysian family members, were earlier flown home from Wuhan on Feb 4.
Two of them tested positive for COVID-19 and have since recovered.