Politicians Who Didn’t Quarantine 14 Days After Sabah Travel (And Those Who Are)

By Boo Su-Lyn | 02 October 2020

Unlike previous travel from certain red zones in the country, the heated Sabah state election likely posed far greater risk because it involved public rallies, home visits, and both inter-district travel throughout Sabah and inter-state travel during the campaign.

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KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 2 — Politicians from the peninsula and Sarawak across ruling and Opposition parties flooded Sabah to campaign during the state election from September 12 until polling day on September 26.

On September 12, health authorities detected a new Laut cluster in Kunak among undocumented immigrants, as well as 44 new Covid-19 cases in the Benteng LD cluster in Tawau and Lahad Datu. Although the Benteng LD cluster — which was first discovered in the Lahad Datu district police headquarters and Tawau prison — had mostly infected prisoners then (361 people), by that time, 15 social contacts from the cluster already tested positive for coronavirus.

As the most heated Sabah state election in decades wore on — with politicians from various parties posting photographs of their two-week campaign, often without face masks or social distancing in crowds — Covid-19 spread rapidly throughout the poorest state in the country, racking above 50 cases a day since September 22.

No action was publicly taken against politicians or campaign volunteers who did not follow health standard operating procedures (SOPs) in the Sabah election, despite the Defence Ministry regularly publishing statistics of arrests against people for patronising pubs or nightclubs, or for not socially distancing or wearing face masks.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) only mandated testing at airports for Sabah arrivals from September 27, a day after Sabahans went to the polls, even though health authorities already noticed Covid-19 cases with Sabah travel history popping up in other parts of the country since a week prior on September 20.

In just 10 days, the coronavirus spread from Sabah to all other states in Malaysia. Yesterday, Malaysia recorded the second highest daily tally ever, at 260 cases, since Covid-19 first officially hit the country last January.

The federal MOH also did not mandate a 14-day quarantine for Sabah arrivals in the peninsula, choosing instead to release people from home quarantine once results from their RT-PCR test at airports turn out negative. Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has justified it by saying that the same procedure had been applied to other red zones like Kota Setar, Kedah. He repeated yesterday that 14-day quarantine was not mandatory for Sabah arrivals in the peninsula because not all arrivals returned from red zones.

Sarawak has taken a far stricter approach, announcing yesterday that it would prohibit entry to all travellers from Sabah and Labuan, except Sarawakians, between October 4 and 18. Non-Sarawakians travelling to Sarawak from the peninsula in that period will be subject to 14-day quarantine at designated centres, with RT-PCR tests on Day 2 and Day 10 of quarantine.

Unlike previous travel from certain red zones in the country, the Sabah state election likely posed far greater risk because it involved public rallies, home visits, and both inter-district travel throughout Sabah and inter-state travel, as out-of-state campaigners moved to and fro Sabah and their home state during the campaign — all the while as the coronavirus silently spread throughout Sabah.

Worse, as the state election was seen as a bellwether on Perikatan Nasional’s shaky hold of federal government (Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim claimed on September 23 that he had majority support from Members of Parliament to take over Putrajaya), major political parties sent their leaders, legislators, and canvassers from across the country in droves to the Sabah campaign.

Unlike ordinary citizens who mostly socialise with just a few people in daily life, like their family, coworkers, or friends, a politician’s job (especially ministers, MPs, and assemblymen) is to meet people and launch events. One MP told CodeBlue that he typically meets hundreds of people a day, more if he attends multiple events.

Berita Harian reported yesterday that a primary school in Kepala Batas, Penang, was ordered to close for eight days after a teacher, believed to be the wife of a Kedah politician who campaigned in the Sabah election, tested positive for Covid-19. The New Straits Times reported that a Kedah state executive councillor has tested positive for the coronavirus after campaigning in the Sabah polls.

A Melaka assemblyman told Astro Awani that as he didn’t have symptoms, he went to work at the state secretariat building at Kompleks Seri Negeri on the morning of September 30, after health authorities initially informed him about the negative result of his test taken at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on September 28 upon return from Sabah. But he claimed health authorities had made a mistake, as they told him later that he actually tested positive for the virus.

Here is a list of five lawmakers returning from Sabah who legally did not undergo a 14-day home quarantine as they continued their work in the peninsula; as well as five legislators who volunteered to self-quarantine for 14 days after their Sabah travel, despite testing negative on their first Covid-19 test. (Infected people can still transmit Covid-19 before they show symptoms and the accuracy of the gold-standard RT-PCR test depends on the time it was taken; it is less accurate in the first four days of infection due to low virus levels).

No 14-Day Quarantine After Sabah Travel

Annuar Musa (Federal Territories Minister, Umno)

Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa attends the closing of the Bumiputera Economic Congress 2020 on October 1, 2020, at the Wisma Majlis Perundangan Melayu (MPM), Kuala Lumpur. Picture from Twitter @AnnuarMusa.

September 26: Meeting at Barisan Nasional’s command centre, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. Kota Kinabalu was a yellow zone then with six local Covid-19 cases reported within the past 14 days. Annuar tweeted that day that he tested negative on his second RT-PCR test and that he had completed the length of home quarantine necessary after contact with a positive case.

Arrival date and test in peninsula: Unknown.

October 1: Bumiputera Economic Congress 2020, Wisma Majlis Perundangan Melayu (MPM), Kuala Lumpur.

Zuraida Kamaruddin (Housing and Local Government Minister, Bersatu)

Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin visits Port Klang, Selangor, on September 29, 2020. Picture from Twitter @zuraida_my.

September 25: Walkabout in Tawau, Sabah (seen wearing a face mask in the pictures she tweeted). Tawau was then a red zone with 340 local Covid-19 cases reported in the past 14 days.

September 26: Arrival and test at klia2 airport. Her political secretary, Nor Hizwan Ahmad, told the press yesterday that Zuraida’s “immediate” swab test result was negative. RT-PCR tests take at least 24 to 48 hours to produce results, whereas rapid antigen tests can produce results in an hour or less, but they are less accurate than RT-PCR tests.

September 26: Majlis Taklimat dan Penyampaian Watikah Pelantikan Penggerak Komuniti Tempatan, Bayan Lepas, Penang.

September 27: Women’s organic farming workshop, Langkawi, Kedah. The Vibes reported that a Kedah executive councillor’s aide, who had attended that Langkawi event, tested positive for Covid-19 after returning from the Sabah campaign.

September 28: Malaysia Urban Forum 2020, Bangunan Sulaiman, Kuala Lumpur, in the morning.

Zuraida’s aide Nor Hizwan said the minister was only informed on the evening of September 28 about the presence of a positive Covid-19 case at the September 27 Langkawi event that she had attended. Zuraida did a swab test on the morning of September 29 and results were negative, according to Nor Hizwan.

September 29: Visit to Port Klang, Selangor, to look into residents’ complaints about structural damage at a flat.

Zuraida is now under 14-day home quarantine, her political secretary said yesterday. If MOH considered Zuraida a close contact of a confirmed case, however, it would raise questions on why the minister was allowed to visit Port Klang. MOH’s standard procedure for close contacts of confirmed Covid-19 cases is mandatory 14-day quarantine, with two RT-PCR tests during that period.

Muhyiddin Yassin (Prime Minister, Bersatu)

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin launches the Malaysia Urban Forum 2020 in Kuala Lumpur on September 28, 2020. Picture from Facebook @ts.muhyiddin.

September 25: Campaign in Tambunan, Sabah, then classified a green zone with zero local Covid-19 cases reported within the prior two weeks, as well as in Tamparuli in Tuaran (yellow zone with two cases then).

Arrival date and test in peninsula: Unknown

September 28: Malaysia Urban Forum 2020, Bangunan Sulaiman, Kuala Lumpur.

September 28: PENJANA Career Advancement Programme (KPT-CAP), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Bangi, Selangor.

September 29: Nusantara Shariah Law and Judiciary Conference 2020, Sepang, Selangor.

September 29: Sesi Balai Rakyat: Makmur Bersama Kuala Lumpur 2030, organised by Institut Masa Depan Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.

October 1: Bumiputera Economic Congress 2020, Wisma Majlis Perundangan Melayu (MPM), Kuala Lumpur.

Aminuddin Harun (Negri Sembilan Mentri Besar, PKR)

Negeri Sembilan Mentri Besar Aminuddin Harun (PKR) launches an appreciation event for retired civil servants, Seremban, Negri Sembilan, on September 29, 2020. Picture from Facebook @dsaminuddinharun.

September 26: Arrival date and test in peninsula.

The Star reported Aminuddin as saying that health authorities have cleared him to return to work after campaigning in the Sabah election, when his swab test upon return on September 26 yielded a negative result. He reportedly said he had campaigned in Matunggong in northern Sabah for four days, which he said reported no Covid-19 cases in the area.

September 29: Appreciation event for retired civil servants, Seremban, Negri Sembilan.

September 29: Bengkel Pemerkasaan Komuniti Perumahan Bebas Dadah 2020-2025, Negri Sembilan.

September 30: Negeri Sembilan Anti-Corruption Plan (2020-2024) event, Wisma Negeri, Seremban, Negri Sembilan.

September 30: Event by the Negeri Sembilan Football Club, Seremban, Negri Sembilan.

September 30: Balloting programme for projects under MARRIS funds, Seremban, Negri Sembilan.

Teresa Kok (Seputeh MP [Kuala Lumpur], DAP)

Seputeh MP Teresa Kok (DAP) getting a home quarantine wristband after a Covid-19 test at klia2 airport on September 28, 2020. Picture from Facebook @TeresaKokSuhSim.

September 28: Arrival and test at klia2 airport.

October 1: Discharged from home quarantine.

Kok initially posted on Facebook on September 30 that her test results were negative, saying: “Tomorrow onwards, I will be free to roam around to do my work”. She later edited her post to say: “Tomorrow I will be discharged from home quarantine”.

The former primary industries minister did not post any pictures of any public events after her discharge from home quarantine.

Self-Quarantine 14 Days After Sabah Travel

Najib Razak (Former Prime Minister, Pekan MP, Umno)

Former Prime Minister Najib Razak under home quarantine. Picture dated September 29, 2020, from Facebook @najibrazak.

September 27: Test (likely in Sabah).

Arrival date and test in peninsula: Unknown

September 29: Najib posted on Facebook that although his Covid-19 test results were negative, he would self-quarantine at home for 14 days, the length of the virus’ incubation period.

Lim Yi Wei (Kampung Tunku assemblywoman [Selangor], DAP)

Kampung Tunku assemblywoman Lim Yi Wei (DAP) (right) waits to get tested at the klia2 airport on September 28, 2020. Picture from Facebook @LimYiWei.MY.

September 27-28: Arrival and test at klia2 airport.

Lim told CodeBlue yesterday that she had tested negative for Covid-19, but she and her three team members would self-quarantine at home for 14 days “to be safe”.

Wong Siew Ki (Balakong assemblywoman [Selangor], DAP)

Balakong assemblywoman Wong Siew Ki (DAP) getting tested at the klia2 airport on September 28, 2020. Picture from Facebook @wongsiewki.

September 27-28: Arrival and test at klia2 airport.

Wong told CodeBlue yesterday that although her Covid-19 test result came back negative, she would still home quarantine until results from her second test on Day 10 of quarantine come out.

“I think it’s better and safer also because the airport is actually quite dangerous,” she said, adding that she had arrived at klia2 at 11.15pm on September 27, but only left the airport at 7.30am the next day.

Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman (Muar MP, Muda)

Muar MP Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman (Muda) on home quarantine. Picture dated September 30, 2020, from Twitter @SyedSaddiq.

September 29: Arrival and test in peninsula.

Syed Saddiq tweeted Wednesday that his first Covid-19 test on September 26 in Sabah came back negative. He also told CodeBlue that he did more tests on September 29 and October 1.

The former youth and sports minister tweeted yesterday that he would self-quarantine at home for 14 days, saying: “Because of ‘special treatment’, we are facing another wave of COVID. 260 new cases!”

Amirudin Shari (Selangor Mentri Besar, PKR)

Selangor Mentri Besar Amirudin Shari (PKR) at a virtual meeting on September 30, 2020. Picture from Facebook @amirudinbinshari.

September 28: Arrival and test at klia2 airport.

Amirudin tweeted on September 29 that although he and his wife have tested negative for Covid-19, he would continue working from home and do another screening in four to five days’ time.

“Yes, I’m still observing quarantine, will do testing soon,” Amirudin told CodeBlue yesterday, when asked if he would self-quarantine for 14 days since returning from Sabah.

His office said in a statement on September 29 that he would work virtually until October 4, seven days upon coming back from Sabah.

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