DG Hisham Explains Why Sabah Arrivals Not Quarantined For 14 Days

Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, however, urges people returning from Sabah to self-quarantine for a fortnight even if they test negative for Covid-19.

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 29 — Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah today advised all those returning from Sabah who tested negative for Covid-19 to undergo self-quarantine for 14 days, even though it’s not made mandatory.

On the other hand, he said those who tested negative, but have symptoms or a history of close contact with a positive Covid-19 case, will have to undergo 14-day quarantine.

“Those who found negative and although they are not mandatory to be quarantined, we advise them to self-quarantine and to comply with our standard operating procedure (SOP). If possible, to stay at home and avoid contact with anyone,” Dr Noor Hisham said at a press conference reporting Malaysia’s daily Covid-19 cases.

“They can go to the Klinik Kesihatan to get a swab done on the 13th day, this is what we advise.”

He also urged those who develop symptoms after testing negative to immediately seek medical attention to be screened.

He said that the same testing and quarantine system was applied to returnees from Kedah. When an administrative Targeted Enhanced Movement Control Order (TEMCO) was imposed in Kota Setar, Kedah, those who returned from Kota Setar did not have to undergo a 14-day mandatory quarantine when they tested negative.

The Health director-general also said that those who do not have a conducive environment to be quarantined at home may apply to be quarantined at designated quarantine centres instead.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) announced last Saturday that all individuals returning from the state of Sabah from September 27 till October 10 have to be tested for Covid-19 at the domestic and international gates of airports and will be issued a home quarantine order with wrist bands. Those who test negative will then be released from quarantine. RT-PCR test results usually take a few days to come out.

After the Sabah’s state elections which was held on September 26, many returnees from Sabah complained on their social media platforms about the long waiting queue, lack of social distancing, and poor planning for the Covid-19 screening process at the airports, especially at Kuala Lumpur International Airport and klia2.

Dr Noor Hisham assured the public that the situation has improved as MOH has added more staff and screening counters. He said that health officers are screening Sabah arrivals with the RT-PCR test that should be done properly. He urged the public to be patient during the testing.

Besides that, Dr Noor Hisham said that the positivity rate from screening 421 individuals from the Bangau-Bangau cluster in Sabah is 65.56 per cent, which means that following the World Health Organization’s (WHO) benchmark, more individuals who are positive have not been screened.

On September 22, MOH reported the Bangau-Bangau cluster in Semporna that was detected during an inpatient screening at Semporna Hospital. Out of the 421 individuals that have been screened, 276 of them tested Covid-19 positive.

“This is one cluster we are worried, because the virus is already in the community and infecting many individuals. Perhaps in a period of a week, we will continue to increase the screening for the community, every kampung, every family, every individual in this community that is the kampung in Bangau-Bangau will be screened and tested and those positive cases will be isolated.”

Furthermore, Dr Noor Hisham said that medical frontliners from states like Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, and Perak, including staff from Kuala Lumpur Hospital, have been sent to Sabah to help strengthen services in the poorest state in the country.

“Tomorrow, we will be sending our specialists in various fields to go down and help them,” Dr Noor Hisham said.

Sabah has been reporting a major spike in the number of Covid-19 cases over the past couple of weeks. Authorities have placed four districts in the east coast of Sabah — Lahad Datu, Tawau, Kunak, and Semporna — under TEMCO from today until October 12.

The Health director-general also informed the public that previously, all fatalities that were reported under the Covid-19 census were not necessarily caused by the coronavirus infection itself. For example, previously, a patient who is Covid-19 positive that may have died due to another cause, like an accident or cancer, was also recorded under the Covid-19 death toll.

However, since WHO proposed a new criterion on how to classify a Covid-19 death, MOH has followed it. Cases that have been reported previously not falling under the WHO criteria will not be removed but from now, cases recorded under the Covid-19 death toll will follow the WHO criteria. However, Dr Noor Hisham did not mention when exactly this has been implemented by MOH.

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