KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 28 — Dr Adham Baba has intervened after arrivals from Sabah waited for up to eight hours in congested conditions to get tested for Covid-19 at Kuala Lumpur airports.
According to the Friends of Dr Adham Baba Facebook page, the health minister called for an emergency coordination meeting at 1.30am today, together with the National Security Council (NSC), after seeing the situation of Sabah returnees waiting at the airports for mandatory testing that kicked in yesterday after the Sabah state election concluded Saturday.
Dr Adham had rushed to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and klia2 airports at 11pm yesterday, where he reportedly saw frontliners wearing protective gear for more than 12 hours and travellers stuck in the area for testing and the wearing of pink quarantine wristbands.
After Dr Adham’s discussion with his officers, the Ministry of Health (MOH) increased the number of frontliners and supplies to speed up the process of screening, according to Dr Adham’s fan page.
“The situation became better,” said the fan page.
“After the meeting, we returned to KLIA at 3am and to klia2 at 5am to ensure the smoothness of the running of MOH frontline machinery,” Dr Adham tweeted.
MOH announced last Saturday, amid a surge of coronavirus cases in Sabah, that all individuals returning from the state from September 27 till October 10 will be tested for Covid-19 at the domestic and international gates of airports and issued home quarantine orders with wrist bands. They will be released from quarantine once their test results are negative.
Yesterday, after Sabah’s state elections that were held on September 26, many individuals who returned from Sabah through KLIA and klia2 complained through their various social media platforms about the long queue, lack of social distancing, and poor planning for the Covid-19 screening process.
An anonymous woman who touched down at KLIA yesterday afternoon told CodeBlue that the protocols for testing were not good. She said there was no social distancing and people were forced to be near those coughing. When asked if children, the elderly, and sick people could go forward, she claimed that a health officer told those in line that even a 70-year-old could wait.
Another traveller tweeted that flight passengers who arrived at klia2 at 1pm only completed their Covid-19 testing at 9pm. She said those waiting were stranded without food and water, including babies, breastfeeding mothers, hungry children, and those who had to take medicines.
One traveller posted a picture of the crowd waiting to be tested. She tweeted: “no social distance at all. We tried but it’s difficult with such limited and unorganised space.”
The New Straits Times reported one of the passengers who returned from Sabah yesterday as saying that everyone at klia2 was angry with the situation, especially those with the elderly and young children.
“There were no proper instructions and guidelines upon our arrival. The situation is messy. We were only told to wait in one of the boarding gates then it was silence for hours and no follow-up from marshals or the people in charge,” Arina Rashid, a returnee from Sabah, was quoted saying.
Another returnee, who only wanted to be known as Mag, reportedly said that the hold-up was due to the interview session after the swab test. She said that KLIA only had about six to seven screening counters opened.
Umno supreme council member Puad Zarkashi shared on his Facebook page that he, too, waited in line with other people to get his swab test done in KLIA, sharing pictures that showed people crowding a room, where social distancing was not possible.
“When a new rule is implemented, you should also think of how to implement it. The Health DG should come down to the ground. MOH and MAB (Malaysia Airports Berhad) shouldn’t blame each other later,” he said.
According to a recent tweet by MOH, the health minister has instructed the Selangor state health department to increase the number of officers as well as equipment to speed up the screening process for travellers returning from Sabah.