Coronavirus: Malaysia to follow WHO lead for mass gatherings like Thaipusam, says DPM

PUTRAJAYA, Jan 29: Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail says Malaysia will take its lead from the World Health Organisation (WHO) as to whether to suspend mass gatherings, such as the Thaipusam celebration, in light of the novel coronavirus (2019-nC0V) outbreak.

Malaysia currently has seven positive cases of 2019-nC0V, all of whom are Chinese nationals.

There are concerns that the government would restrict mass gatherings in a bid to curb the spread of the virus which originated in Wuhan, China.

One of the main Hindu festivals in Malaysia, Thaipusam will be held on Feb 8 this year. It is celebrated by millions of Hindu devotees, pilgrims and tourists every year.

The focal point for Thaipusam celebrations in the country, the Sri Subramaniar Temple in Batu Caves, attracted around 1.6 million people last year.

“We will see how this develops,” said Wan Azizah during a press conference today.

“If WHO says we cannot have gatherings like these, we will issue a directive,” she said after her visit to the Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre.

WHO notes that mass gatherings like sporting events or religious pilgrimages can pose public health risks and strain the public health resources of the hosting community, city or country.

Mass gatherings like the Olympics or the annual haj pilgrimage in Mecca require considerable preparedness and response capabilities on the part of the host, WHO said on its website.

Earlier today, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia was discussing with China on the possibility of evacuating 78 Malaysians who were currently in Wuhan and Hubei province.

Touching on the issue, Wan Azizah said that the group would be immediately quarantined when they get back to Malaysia.

“The health ministry has its SOP (standard operating procedures),” she said. – Free Malaysia Today

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