KOTA KINABALU, Feb 19 — Sabah will lift its travel restrictions on Chinese nationals when the vaccine for the deadly Covid-19 virus becomes available, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal said today.
Shafie said that the state government is monitoring the progress for vaccines available, but such a research is still in progress.
“The moment there is a vaccine for the virus, we will welcome back all Chinese tourists in Sabah,” he said during his speech at a charity dinner by the state government and Federation of Chinese Associations Sabah (FCAS) here.
The dinner was held to raise funds for victims of the virus in China. Some RM2 million was raised in the effort.
Shafie told the people that the state does not mean to reject Chinese nationals from coming into the state, but that it had to take preventive measure to prevent the outbreak from reaching Sabah.
“The move to ban the direct entry of tourists from China was only temporary, as the state did not have the medical expertise and facilities to cope with a major outbreak,” he said.
Shafie said that the government did not come to the decision easily, knowing the repercussions on the tourism industry which relied heavily on China.
But in the end, the government made the decision in the interest and health of Sabahans knowing the state lacks the facilities and expertise to tackle an epidemic.
He said that the state appreciated the contribution of the Chinese tourists to not just its tourism sector, but to the general economic growth of the state.
“Every sector benefited by their presence. Fishermen, vegetable farmers, retailers to hotels and tour operators among others have benefited. It is important for us to maintain good relations with China,” he said.
On January 30, Sabah, who had jurisfiction over its immigration, only banned direct entry of Chinese citizens from Wuhan but upon the the increasing death toll, the state revised the travel restrictions to all travellers coming from China, including those on transit, within the last 14 days.
Shafie expressed appreciation for the Consul General of China in Kota Kinabalu Liang Caide for his assistance and assurance that Chinese tourists would return to Sabah once the novel corona virus outbreak subsides in China.
He, later handed over the RM2 million in donation to the Liang.
Liang in his speech to thank the government for their effort said that he expected relations between China and Sabah to strengthen once the Covid-19 outbreak is over.
“The friendship between the China and the state of Sabah will definitely deepen after the outbreak is contained,” Liang said.
He said that not only will Chinese tourists return to Sabah, but numbers will continue to increase, as well as cooperation and exchanges in other aspects.
“We will be even closer for a brighter future of both sides,” he said.