KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 25 — Health authorities say they will consider applications to shorten one’s 14-day quarantine if the applicant tests negative for Covid-19 on their second test and shows no symptoms.
Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah noted that countries like Singapore only impose a seven-day quarantine, unlike Malaysia’s 14-day period, but cited Section 15(1) of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 that empowers authorised officers to order surveillance on an infected person, for a period deemed fit, until the person may be discharged without danger to the public.
“Generally, we impose a 14-day quarantine, but if there are requests to be released earlier, the person will send an application to us (Ministry of Health). The committee will look into it. We do consider to shorten the quarantine period, for example, to the 12th or 13th day — those who have a wedding solemnisation ceremony, for example,” Dr Noor Hisham told a press conference today.
“If the reasons can be considered, we will discuss and evaluate based on risk assessment.”
He said for such applications, the Ministry of Health (MOH) will bring forward the test that is supposed to be conducted on the 13th day of quarantine to the 12th or 11th day.
“If the test shows negative results and the person is asymptomatic, as well as the medical check-up did not show any risks based on our risk assessment, then we can consider the application. That is only applicable if there is any application. If there is not, there’ll be no changes in the 14 days’ quarantine.”
The Health DG explained that if the Covid-19 test on the 12th day of quarantine is negative and shows no antibodies to the coronavirus, then MOH can shorten one’s quarantine period to 12 or 13 days.
“The IgM antibody is formed on the fifth day and IgG on the seventh day.”
When a virus attacks a body, IgM is the first antibody produced by the immune system. A positive IgM test shows that a person may have been infected by the virus. IgG is an antibody which protects against bacterial and viral infection and it usually forms after the formation of IgM.
CNN reported on November 12 that a small wedding event in a rural area in Maine, the United States, was linked to 178 Covid-19 cases, with seven deaths. The wedding reception that was attended by 55 people did not only led to infections among the guests, but also extended to another area which previously had zero Covid-19 cases. A total of 27 people had reportedly tested positive with the coronavirus after being in touch with the reception attendees.
It is to be noted that a typical Muslim wedding solemnisation ceremony is usually attended by about 55 people.
Contrarily, Dr Noor Hisham said on November 20 that a man who underwent a Covid-19 test three days prior to his trip from Tawau, Sabah, has sparked a new cluster, the Bah Bercham cluster in Kinta, Perak, when he accidentally escaped imposition of a home surveillance order (HSO).
The man walked out from the airport instead of going to the HSO counter, when the system at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport showed his earlier negative test result.
Dr Noor Hisham had then emphasised the importance of a mandatory 14-day home quarantine for returnees from Sabah and said that MOH rejected applications from such people to shorten their quarantine period. He also said seven per cent of Covid-19 cases among returnees from Sabah were detected on the 13th day of quarantine.
However, yesterday, Health Minister Dr Adham Baba announced that MOH was eliminating the 14-day quarantine requirement for people returning from Sabah to other parts of the country from November 25 onwards.
According to MOH, starting from today, arrivals from Sabah are only required to undergo a Covid-19 swab test three days prior to their trip from Sabah to other states in Malaysia. If they don’t show symptoms upon arriving at their destination and their lab test results are confirmed negative, they do not have to be quarantined for 14 days.
Dr Noor Hisham today justified MOH’s new decision by saying that mandatory quarantine is not imposed on people who cross borders in other states in the peninsula, including Selangor and Negeri Sembilan, despite a rise in Covid-19 cases there amid a declining trend in Sabah.
The removal of the 14-day quarantine rule for Sabah returnees was announced shortly after Keningau MP Jeffrey Kitingan from STAR, which is aligned with the federal Perikatan Nasional coalition, attended the Dewan Rakyat sitting yesterday on November 24, less than 14 days after he attended the Sabah state legislative assembly sitting in Kota Kinabalu on November 12.
According to Dewan Rakyat Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun, Kitingan had received a quarantine order on November 12 and was released by the Lembah Pantai district health office from quarantine on November 23.
As the policy vote for Budget 2021 is about to take place tomorrow, Dr Noor Hisham today requested MPs to vote wisely for the betterment of the people and the country amid the pandemic.
“MOH believes that they understand the current pandemic situation and financial situation of the country and we hope the MPs will vote wisely.”