The government today has agreed to bring back the staff of Wisma Putra and other government agencies located in China with their wives and dependents, following the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus.
Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said they would be brought back on commercial flights in stages as soon as possible, which is expected to be implemented next week depending on the availability of the flights.
Besides the embassy office in Beijing, Saifudin said Malaysia also had consulates in Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Kunming, Nanning, Shanghai and Xi'an other than Taipei with a total 34 Wisma Putra officials and 77 dependents.
Meanwhile, the number of government agency officers in China such as the Malaysian External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade), Malaysian Investment Development Authority (Mida) and Tourism Malaysia stood at 52 people with 135 dependents.
"From that figure, we will evaluate how many people (officers) need to stay and how many will be taken home as we will only leave behind the number of employees either from Wisma Putra or the agencies that are really needed right now.
"For couples and children, we intend to bring home as soon as possible. This will not affect the work there because some tasks could not be done because of many city lockdowns... what is under consideration is who will be taken home, "he said.
Saifuddin said this at a press conference after attending a community programme in conjunction with the 2020 Chinese New Year celebration in Bentong.
He said, besides the safety factor, the decision to take them home was also made in the event of a food supply shortage if the situation persisted, although so far, supply is still high and the government would also send food there.
"Those who are brought home have to go through the same process as prior to this, namely, the screening process in China before boarding the plane and once again being screened and quarantined in Malaysia as it is also implemented under the National Disaster Management Agency," he said.
Commenting on the 34 Malaysians who are still in Wuhan due to logistical reasons, Saifuddin said the priority is still being given to bring them home and Wisma Putra had been in touch with the Malaysian representatives there.
Asked if there were any plans to bring back Malaysians from other parts of China, Saifuddin said the matter would be discussed later due to the large number of more than 30,000 people including those who now could not move freely. - Bernama