KUALA LUMPUR, April 21 — The government may approve university students to return to their hometowns, as well as Malaysians currently staying in their hometowns to go back to where they work.
Senior Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said this approval depended on standard operating procedures (SOP) drawn up by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and, as such, the government has not yet decided when university students and other Malaysians can start travelling to their hometowns and place of work respectively.
He said the ministers’ and National Security Council (NSC) meeting today had decided on the matter after getting advice from MOH, noting that public and private university students have already been staying on campus for more than 28 days.
“If we are quarantined twice for 14 days, and there’s still no symptoms, we can assume that they currently are not infected with Covid-19,” Ismail Sabri told a press conference today.
“So we discussed just now about the possibility of allowing them to return home. However, we want a tight SOP. We don’t want 100,000 or 80,000 students going home at the same time. We may require them to undergo health screenings before they return to their hometown.”
He said the same applied to workers who may have been staying for too long at their hometowns.
“We’ll get advice from MOH. We’ll look at this matter because we know that they have been staying at their hometowns for over a month, which might make them anxious.”
Ismail Sabri acknowledged the risk in mass movements involving buses and use of R&R stops, which he said the government would try to avoid.
According to international research, as cited by veteran physician Dr Milton Lum, between 5 per cent and 80 per cent of people testing positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, may not display symptoms. Some of those asymptomatic cases become symptomatic over the next week, known as “pre-symptomatics”. According to the World Health Organization, some asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic people can still transmit the virus.
Researchers at the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine in Oxford, UK, found that children and young adults could be asymptomatic, but there is not yet a single reliable study to determine the number of asymptomatic people. The true extent of the coronavirus pandemic can only likely be confirmed with population-based antibody testing.