By MASIDI MANJUN
COMMENT: I welcome the decision of the Sabah State Cabinet two days ago to temporarily suspend all commercial flights from China in view of the gravity of the coronavirus problem.
2. I was the State Minister of Tourism for over 10 years and it was during my tenure that Sabah made big inroads into the Chinese tourists market. It therefore pains me to see Chinese tourists being turned away from Sabah due to the coronavirus problem.
3. The spread of coronavirus shows no sign of abating. On the contrary, it’s getting worse. As of today (1.2.20) there are now nearly 12,000 people all over China that have been infected with the virus with 259 fatalities. The virus has also been detected in 22 other countries outside China.
4. Yesterday the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued a Public Health Emergency notice. In response to it, the Singapore Government widened travel restrictions to all new visitors who recently traveled to Mainland China. New visitors of any nationality with recent travel history to China will not be allowed to enter Singapore. The United States has followed suit on Friday. More countries are now restricting or even stopping their airlines from flying to China.
5. The proactive measure taken by the State Government two days ago to disallow new Chinese visitors to Sabah ago is a painful decision, even unpopular to the tourism players. But it’s the correct decision that has to be made courageously. The strong action taken by Singapore & the US yesterday fully justifies the decision of the State Government.
6. It is important to show good & decisive leadership in the face of great challenges of global proportion. The coronavirus scourge demands strong action by all governments to stop it from getting worse. The well being of our citizens and the need to contain its spread would have to be the overriding consideration. WHO must help coordinate even initiate international effort to combat this menace.
8. There would be great economic & financial repercussions of the flights suspension. Many businesses would be hard hit. I urge patience among tourism players during this difficult time & find ways to minimise its impact.
9. Perhaps this is also a good time to do an appraisal of the overall marketing strategies of Sabah tourism. Obviously there is a need to spread marketing effort to other countries & regions. Domestic tourism would have to be strengthened by getting more west Malaysians to travel to Sabah. They are quality tourists with good spending power.
9. The Chinese tourists would continue to be an integral part of Sabah tourism considering the close geographical location of China to Sabah. We value their patronage and Sabah wants to ensure that our state continues to provide safe & healthy environment for them to visit.
10. It’s the responsibility of the State Govt to ensure Sabah is safe & healthy for all visitors to the State including tourists from other countries which make up nearly 60% of the overall foreign arrivals.
11. I am confident the decision of the State Government would be appreciated by the international community as our little contribution to the global effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus outside China.
12. I call upon all Sabahans to unite and assist the authorities in their efforts to ensure Sabah remains free of the coronavirus.
* Masidi Manjun is the State Assemblyman For Karanaan