KUALA LUMPUR, April 3 — The authorities will assist patients who need to seek medical treatment during enforcement of the Movement Control Order (MCO), Health Minister Dr Adham Baba said today.
He stressed that the regulation restricting travel beyond 10km from one’s home until April 14 also permitted people to go to a place nearest to their residence, besides allowing police permission to be sought for any movements needed within or between states.
“The rules that are made certainly have special exemptions for emergency or other specific cases,” Dr Adham told CodeBlue.
The health minister said earlier today that he has excluded medical treatment and purchasing medicines from the 10km travel limit under the MCO, amid the Covid-19 outbreak, after speaking to the national police chief about the matter.
The 10km-radius movement restriction, according to the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (Measures within Infected Local Areas) (No 2) Regulations 2020 gazetted on March 31, had applied to seeking health care and buying medicines, as well as purchasing food and daily necessities. Besides travelling within a maximum of 10km for these purposes, the regulation also allowed people to go “to a place nearest to his residence”.
The National Cancer Society of Malaysia (NCSM) had complained about four cancer patients purportedly getting turned around at police roadblocks, despite having letters for treatment, in the Klang Valley, Melaka, and the East Coast over the past few days.
Dr Adham said any misunderstanding on the ground must be investigated before blaming the police.
“There’s a possibility that other matters were not mentioned. Investigate first,” he said. “The police, whether they stop you or not, must have a reason to investigate”.
The health minister also explained that even if there are medical facilities closer to one’s residence than the ones they frequent, such patients would still be allowed to see their regular doctors located more than 10km away for treatment.
“That shouldn’t be a problem, unless people deliberately challenge the discretion of the authorities.”
A single complaint from patients, he said, should not be hyped up as the intent of the MCO was to protect 30 million residents from the coronavirus epidemic that has infected over 3,100 people and killed 50 in Malaysia.
Senior Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob told a press conference today that although the general rule was a 10km limit, the police have been given discretion in individual cases.
Even food, groceries, and daily necessities, for example, can be purchased outside the 10km radius if they can’t be found nearby, he said. The police can also act with discretion to allow interstate travel between bordering towns and cities for such purposes, like Gemas and Segamat, or Petaling Jaya and Bangsar.
“Yesterday, we heard that some individuals wanted to go out to get medicines, but because the hospital was more than 10km away, they had to cancel their intentions or their destination to the hospital,” Ismail Sabri said.
The senior defence minister said police have been given the discretion to allow individuals through roadblocks for health care purposes, like going to the clinic, even if their destinations are more than 10km from their homes.
“Even though we have a 10km rule, it is not a ‘must’ that cannot be relaxed. We have already given exemptions to the police to use their discretion.”