Latest Travel Update : 19 February 2020
Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) situation in Sabah, Borneo
Thus far, there has been no confirmed cases of the 2019-nCoV in Borneo including the states of Sabah and Sarawak, and also Brunei.
Effective 30 January 2020, Sabah has suspended all direct flights between China and Sabah, Borneo until further notice as a further precaution. This precaution was strengthened on 7 February with the restriction that those who have traveled to China within the last 14 days, including Malaysians who do not reside in Sabah, are not allowed entry into Sabah until the 14 days have elapsed.
25 suspected cases involving China nationals all tested Negative for the suspected virus (31 Jan 2020).
The Star 7 Feb 20: Sabah announces additional temporary restrictions on travelers who have been to China recently
NST 30 Jan 20: Sabah temporarily suspends all flights to and from China to Sabah, Borneo
The Star: 25 cases in Sabah involving China nationals all tested negative for Corona virus
Frequently Asked Questions
Coronaviruses comes from a large family of viruses that causes respiratory illnesses like the common cold with symptoms ranging from mild to moderate. In some cases, these viruses can cause bronchitis and pneumonia.
The novel coronavirus is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans until recently. The novel coronavirus is closely related to SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) coronavirus and in the same family as MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) coronavirus.
Symptoms include fever, flu, runny nose, coughing, sore throat and difficulty in breathing. There are also severe cases whereby the infection can cause pneumonia.
As of 29 January 2020, there are a total of seven cases and all seven patients who are positive with the coronavirus are Chinese nationals. Patients are currently receiving treatment in Langkawi, Sungai Buloh and Johor Bharu.
To date, there are no reports of the coronavirus here in Sabah. The state is also taking the necessary precautions especially at entry points such as airports and seaports.
The virus can be transmitted through the air and can spread from person to person through coughing or sneezing, as well as by direct or close contact with a person already infected such as shaking hands or touching. The virus can also be transmitted through touching objects or surfaces with viral particles on them.
- Wash your hands often with soap.
- Always have a bottle of hand sanitizer handy.
- Avoid contact with sick people.
- Avoid going to crowded areas.
- Wear a medical mask.
- Keep your home and office properly ventilated.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a handkerchief, tissue or your sleeve when you sneeze or cough.
- Seek immediate medical care if you are feeling unwell, especially if you are having fever, cough and difficulty breathing.
- Avoid travelling if you are sick.
Borneo Eco Tours
- Our vehicles are prepared with face masks and hand sanitizers.
- Our guides and captains will brief guests about the virus and offer the mask optionally to guests as a precaution.
- Our office and work areas (including our vehicles) will be cleaned and disinfected regularly.
- We have briefed our own team about the virus and any staff who are sick with the fever will be directed to seek immediate medical attention and take leave from work.
- Our guides and captains will be vigilant and will check the temperatures of guests who are suspected to have flu and fever.
- If any of our guest falls sick, especially with a fever above 37.8 degree Celsius, we will immediately arrange for them to get medical attention.
- Our team will be equipped and available to give regular updates on the coronavirus situation.
Sukau Rainforest Lodge
- Public areas will be available with hand sanitizers.
- Lodge staff will be vigilant and will check the temperatures of guests who are suspected to have flu and fever. Guests with a temperature above 37.8 degree Celsius will be referred to a hospital immediately.
- Rooms and public areas will be properly disinfected daily.
- Since 4 January 2020, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has increased its screening of all travellers (passengers and crew) from China, at all 64 international entry points nationwide – international airports, seaports, and land entrances (PMA). Screening is done using thermal scanners.
- At the entry points, travellers with fever will be given a medical check by paramedics to confirm the fever as well as a travel history check.
- Any traveller from China will be requested to get further examination from a health personnel at various PMAs.
- Travellers arriving from China are also urged to declare themselves at health checkpoints.
- If a traveller meets the Patient Under Investigation (PUI) criteria, they will be immediately referred to an appointed hospital for treatment.
- If a traveller does not meet the PUI criteria, they will be given a Home Assessment Tool and must be placed under home quarantine for 14 days.
- Those who have cough symptoms put no fever will be given masks to wear to prevent the spread of any sickness.
- Travellers with no symptoms of the virus will be given a Health Alert Card. Just in case they begin to show signs of the virus symptoms within 14 days of their arrival, they will need to bring the card along with them and seek immediate medical care.
- Random checks will also be conducted on Malaysian citizens.
- Food imported from China will undergo strict checks but there will be no ban.
- For the time being, Malaysia has also suspended all visas for tourists from Wuhan and surrounding Hubei province.
Though there are no reported cases of the virus here in Sabah so far, we understand that travelling during this time is a concern. You can always speak to your tour consultant should you wish to postpone your tour with us to another date.
Travel to Sukau, Danum Valley & Tabin
Travel to Sukau, Danum Valley, Tabin Reserve and Sandakan remains very safe. That said, we take every precaution necessary, have emergency measures in place and avoid where possible crowded areas and outlying areas vulnerable to danger. All boat transfers offshore happen only during the day. We only have boat transfers to areas deemed safe and avoid other areas altogether.
Sukau is approximately 2.5hrs each way inland from the sea and thus the significant distance forms a huge deterrent to any threats from the Philippines. Armed groups usually target the offshore island and coastal areas because it is easier for them to make a getaway across the Malaysian-Philippines border. There is a permanent military-police presence in Sukau village that is only 10 minutes by boat away from Sukau Rainforest Lodge. The river also forms a natural deterrent because there is only one way in and out. A military outpost was recently constructed in December 2014 and is currently stationed with 15 armed military personnel at the entry point of the river that continuously monitors all boats entering and leaving the river and provides a quick response military presence in the area.
All our speed boats are equipped with high-powered outboard engines and longe range radios that maintain continuous 24 hrs communication with our base in Sandakan and in Sukau. The areas that we bring our guests on the east coast all host a sizable military presence on location or guarding key entry points to the areas.
Other inland jungle lodges including Borneo Rainforest Lodge (Danum Valley) and Tabin Wildlife Lodge remains safe to travel due to their inland locations and military presence stationed at entry points.
Travel to Selingan & Lankayan Island
In spite of travel advisories from some countries to Selingan island and Lankayan island, we still believe that travel to Selingan island (Turtle island) and to Lankayan island is very safe due to their permanent military presence, further enhanced with the deployment of police and military personnel at all tourist attractions in Sabah by the Defence Minister. An enforced nightime curfew on boats also helps by restricting undetected incursions.
Travel to islands in the vicinity of Sipadan Island
Since the Malaysian police and navy intercepted an attempted kidnapping on 8 December 2016, there has not been a single reported or attempted kidnapping from Malaysian waters. We believe that the situation has improved sufficiently to once again consider travel to areas offshore of Sipadan and Semporna. Unfortunately, due to foreign travel advisories, bear in mind that your insurance may not cover you for travel in these areas (Sipadan, Mabul, Pom-Pom and Mataking islands) until they are lifted.
We advise that our clients exercise every precaution when traveling to Sipadan and islands off Semporna
due to the possible threat of kidnapping for ransom. This includes ensuring that you're travelling with a licensed tour operator who has safety procedures and emergency protocols in place. Security at these islands have been bolstered but there remains a residual risk of incursions due to these islands' relatively close distance with the Phillipines border. These island resorts continue to enjoy brisk business and our advise is precautionary on our part.
Foreign Travel Advisory
Travel advisory from USA, UK and Australia on Sabah security situation are normally based on their assesment at the time of the incident and not based on the current situation on the ground and thus tend to the side of overcaution. These travel advisories take months if not years to be downgraded regardless of actual conditions on the ground.
The following are links to the travel advisories from the respective countries.
2016 was the turning point for kidnapping in the Sipadan area of Sabah. The successful ambush and elimination of kidnappers by the marine police on 8 December 2016 marked the last attempted kidnapping from waters close to Sabah. A summary of kidnap attempts and the final attempt is as follows.
- 8 December 2016 - Three suspected kidnappers were killed in a firefight with police and a further three were apprehended during a kidnap attempt in Merabung offshore from Lahad Datu
- 19 November 2016 - Two Indonesian fishermen were kidnapped in waters of Merabung near Lahad Datu
- 5 November 2016 - Two Indonesian fishermen were kidnapped in waters of Kertam
- 28 September 2016 - A local boat owner was kidnapped from in the ocean off Semporna
- 10 September 2016 - Three people on fishing boat kidnapped off Malaysia: Official.
- 3 August 2016 - One Indonesian sailor was kidnapped but 2 of his crew were left unharmed in Malaysian waters. He was released on 22 September 2016.
- 9 July 2016 - Three Indonesian fishermen were kidnapped off the south-eastern coast of Sabah before midnight. They were offshore fishing in Malaysian waters when they were intercepted and taken. The three Indonesian fishermen were released on 17 September 2016.
2015 was a very eventful year for Borneo, in particular Sabah: the 5.9 magnitude earthquake that claimed the lives of 18 people on the summit of Mount Kinabalu and the kidnapping of two local Malaysians in the east coast area. Since then, the Mount Kinabalu climbing trail has been reopened, albeit now only limited to the Timpohon Gate trail, and no further kidnapping / safety incidences have affected Sabah.
While no tour operator or government can provide a 100% guarantee of safety for visitors, we can offer some compelling assurances that it is generally safe to travel to/within Sabah. Recent incidents have led law enforcement agencies to increase and take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of the people and visitors.
There is a general threat in the east coast of Sabah due to its close proximity to the Sulu archipelago in the southern Philippines. All travels to islands, dive sites and associated tourist facilities will have a certain level of risk. That said, the safety and well-being of our guests is our top priority and we take necessary measures to ensure all of our tours are run safely by avoiding crowded public places and areas vulnerable to intrusions. We would also like to remind and advise our guests to exercise normal safety precautions when travelling along the east coast and within Borneo.
Safety measures by Borneo Eco Tours and Law Enforcement Agencies in Sandakan:
- The ESSCOM (Eastern Sabah Security Command) oversees the security stretching from Kudat in the far north to the entire east coast including Sandakan, Lahad Datu, Semporna and Tawau. Dusk to dawn curfew are strictly enforced out at sea to ensure the safety of all guests.
- The jetty where our guests embark and disembark is situated between the ESSCOM and the Police Marine Base.
- 24 Hour air (helicopter) and sea (speed boats) surveillance.
- Army bases are set up at the mouth of Kinabatangan River in Mumiang Village (first 30 minutes boat ride to Sukau), Abai Village (another 30 minutes) and at Sukau.
- All our open sea speedboats are equipped with long range radio communication equipment including walkie-talkie coverage that can be received by Sandakan and Sukau Rainforest Lodge offices during the entire boat ride.
Safety measures by Borneo Eco Tours and Law Enforcement Agencies in Sukau:
- A police station is situated 5 minutes away from Sukau Rainforest Lodge. It has six military personnel attached to the station.
- Daily river patrols are conducted by the military attachment.
- Sukau Rainforest Lodge is located 1.5 hours away from the river-mouth heading towards the sea.
- There is another police station situated 45 minutes away (Kota Kinabatangan) from Sukau Rainforest Lodge by land.
- Almost daily roadblocks are conducted. All vehicles are stopped and inspected.
- We have members of The People’s Volunteer Corps (RELA) working at the lodge – Mr. Jamri on day shift and Mr. Shahrin on night shift.
- Sukau Rainforest Lodge admin and operation staff are connected 24-hour via phone (Whatsapp) to all security forces, where daily security updates and warning are communicated. A 24-hour communication by long range radio is also kept with our office in Sandakan.