January 31, 2020 / 6:23 AM / 17 days ago

Malaysian rail project stops Chinese workers returning from Wuhan

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - More than a dozen Chinese workers at a ‘Belt and Road’ train project in Malaysia who had gone home to Wuhan for the Lunar New Year have been told not to return until further notice, head of the project owner said on Friday.

Malaysia Rail Link (MRL) chief executive officer Darwis Abdul Razak said the company had set up an emergency response plan before the festivities and the decision for the 13 Chinese nationals was in line with the government’s temporary travel ban on citizens from Wuhan and Hubei, The Star Online reported.

“Their absence will not in any way affect work on the ECRL here,” he said.

At least eight visiting Chinese nationals in Malaysia are infected with the virus, which has killed 213 people in China.

On Thursday, Malaysia’s Human Resources Ministry said in a statement that the $11-billion East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) workers from China “have been granted a leave of absence until the outbreak in China has been brought under control”.

The ministry advised the contractor China Communications Construction Co Ltd to retain the jobs for affected staff and continue paying salaries.

CCC-ECRL, the local unit of the contractor, said its emergency management plan includes any staff who have traveled to China and returned.

“The necessary work arrangement, such as working remotely where possible, has been made to minimize impact to the project’s progress,” a spokesman said in response to questions from Reuters.

It was not immediately clear how many Chinese nationals worked at the project and how many of them had gone back home for the festivities last weekend. Up to 70% of the project’s workers are supposed to be local.

At the time the project was suspended in July 2018 for a year, it had a total hire of 2,250 people.

The 640 km line (398 miles) will connect Port Klang on the Straits of Malacca with the city of Kota Bharu in northeast peninsular Malaysia.

Reporting by Joseph Sipalan and Liz Lee; Editing by Michael Perry

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