After senior minister’s caution, Penang seeks federal approval to bar medical tourists

Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow says the Penang government has formally asked the Immigration Department to suspend entry of international patients into the state. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow says the Penang government has formally asked the Immigration Department to suspend entry of international patients into the state. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, Aug 19 ― The Penang government has formally asked the Immigration Department to suspend entry of international patients into the state, said Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow.

He said the state fully understood that the authority to allow or prevent the entry of international patients into the peninsula rested solely with the federal government.

“We know we have to comply with the federal government’s decision, that is why in our statement, we said the state, at this moment, would want the federal government to consider for this period, not to accept patients seeking treatment in Penang,” he said in a press conference at his office today.

Chow explained the state was caught unprepared last week when three Indonesian patients were brought into the state for treatment at a private hospital here.

He stressed that the decision was made by the relevant authorities without the state being informed.

“Although this is a federal jurisdiction, the state is at the receiving end so we should be informed,” he said.

The Penang lawmaker noted that Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob has said the state must apply to the National Security Council (NSC) if it wished to temporarily suspend the arrival of international patients and said that Penang has done so.

He hoped the minister will consider the views of various state governments regarding this issue, pointing out that state government representatives were not present at all meetings and may not be aware of every decision made.

“When things happen, it is the state’s responsibility to give their input, so in this case, he said we are required to write so we have taken action,” he said.

He said the federal government has already worked out the standard operating procedures (SOP) on the matter.

“We would appreciate that the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council and the airline concerned can do a communication exercise to explain to the people why it is safe and whether it is safe for patients to come to Malaysia to seek treatment,” he said.

Chow was responding to Ismail Sabri’s comments yesterday that state governments are not allowed to impose their own regulations on social and business activities that would supersede the federal government.

Ismail Sabri was responding to Chow’s statement on Monday that the state will maintain its stand not to allow medical tourists into the state due to the re-emergence of Covid-19 cases in the state.

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