KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 28 — Health Minister Dr Adham Baba and Ministry of Health (MOH) officers entered Sarawak from the peninsula yesterday on a three-day pass for essential services, the state government said.
Dr Adham — who launched a groundbreaking ceremony on the construction of an additional building for Miri Hospital, and his accompanying officers, including MOH secretary-general Chen Chaw Min — had tested negative for Covid-19 three days prior to arrival in Sarawak, according to Sarawak’s State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) secretariat.
The SDMC secretariat also said the MOH delegation was given a three-day, two-night pass for essential service workers that exempted them from the state’s 14-day quarantine requirement on all arrivals from the peninsula.
“But they did a day trip,” the SDMC secretariat told CodeBlue today.
“Only very limited officers from MOH attended the function. All tested negative. All of them go through strict health checking, on arrival and at every facility they have been to. Mask / distancing at all times being practiced.”
MOH posted on Facebook that the RM289.2 million construction project on the additional building for Miri Hospital — scheduled to complete in 2023 — would add 328 beds, leading to a total of 667 beds in the district hospital, that was expected to reduce bed occupancy rate to 70 per cent from 81 per cent.
The SDMC secretariat added that the three-day pass was only issued to people under essential services.
According to the SDMC secretariat, Works Minister Fadillah Yusof — who attended a PBB function in Kuching on October 24 after joining Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s meeting with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong in Kuantan, Pahang, the previous day — was also exempted from 14-day quarantine in Sarawak because he fell under the essential services category that only mandates a negative result from a Covid-19 test taken 72 hours before arrival.
SDMC previously announced that all Malaysians entering Sarawak from the peninsula from October 10 would be subject to a 14-day quarantine at designated centres. The state government will bear the costs of testing and quarantine for Sarawakians. The entry requirement has been extended to November 15.
SDMC said on October 1 that non-Sarawakians working in essential services who travel from the peninsula to perform official duties in Sarawak are required to take an RT-PCR test three days before departure. Sarawakian essential service workers with negative RT-PCR test results that are “valid for 14 days” can return to Sarawak without quarantine at designated centres.
It is unclear what SDMC means by negative RT-PCR test results that are valid for 14 days. RT-PCR tests only diagnose if one is currently infected with Covid-19 at the time the test was taken. People can still get infected after getting tested.
Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii has questioned the purported double standards in the 14-day quarantine exemption for ministers entering Sarawak, even as Kuching turned into a red zone yesterday.
“For me, the virus does not recognise positions, or even ‘official business’,” the DAP lawmaker posted on Facebook.
“Even if a RT-PCR test was taken before entry into Sarawak, you never know after the swab was taken, the person can be exposed to virus after, since they need to meet many people due to the nature of their job, or it could be still within the incubation period, so the initial swab may not have detected it.”
The Opposition MP declared he would self-isolate for 14 days upon returning to Sarawak from Kuala Lumpur for the upcoming Parliament meeting, as “I will not put anyone’s life at risk especially when I come back from a red zone”.