14-Day Quarantine Rule Depends On Current Government Directives

The incubation period of the coronavirus is around three to 14 days; 97.5% of patients only develop symptoms within 11.5 days.

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 27—-The 14-day quarantine rule for people returning from Covid-19 red zones is subject to present government orders, Takiyuddin Hassan said.

The minister from the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of Parliament and law, in his Dewan Rakyat reply on November 26, said that the 14-day quarantine rule is based on current government instructions related to the Movement Control Order (MCO) under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342).

“The 14-day quarantine rule for those returning from the red zone is subject to current government directives based on MCO under Act 342,” Takiyuddin said.

The PAS lawmaker was replying to Balik Pulau MP Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik, who asked the de facto law minister to state the rationale for allowing a state election to be held in Sabah without a clear standard operating procedure (SOP) and poor enforcement of the SOP, such as not requiring 14 days’ quarantine for those returning from red zones. A red zone is a district or sub-district that recorded more than 40 local Covid-19 cases in the past 14 days.

Shortly after the two-week Sabah state election in September, a surge of Covid-19 cases hit the country’s poorest state last month, nearly overwhelming its health care system as doctors struggled with ill patients and infections spreading rapidly through communities.

Takiyuddin said that the September 26 poll in Sabah had to be held because the state legislative assembly was dissolved and an election had to be held within 60 days.

According to the minister, who is also Kota Baru MP, there were guidelines set by the government to prevent Covid-19 during the state elections, among which included:

Sanitisation and cleaning of all premises that have been designated for the state elections according to the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) guidelines:

  • Control of those present for elections by ensuring a one-metre social distance is practiced.
  • Checking-in using MySejahtera application or manual registration.
  • Temperature screening and symptoms check.
  • Physical distancing whereby voting tables were separated by two metres.
  • Usage of hand sanitiser and soap for all those who come in for voting.
  • Usage of gloves by the elections officers on duty.
  • Compulsory usage of face mask for all attendees.
  • Those with symptoms of Covid-19 will be separated and will have to vote in a separate tent.

During Sabah’s state election campaign between September 12 and September 26, Covid-19 cases that sparked from Sabah’s Benteng LD cluster, which was first detected among undocument immigrant detainees, had started spreading to the community.

During the beginning of the state elections, the doubling time of the Covid-19 cases was slow but at the tail-end of the polls, the doubling rate of new Covid-19 cases picked up.

Before polling day, many politicians from peninsular Malaysia flew in to Sabah to campaign. However, Covid-19 testing was not made mandatory till September 27, when all those returning from Sabah had to undergo a mandatory Covid-19 testing, but did not need to quarantine for 14 days, as the home surveillance order will be lifted when the individual tests negative.

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah only encouraged those returning from Sabah to self-quarantine for 14 days and get tested if they developed symptoms.

The SOP then changed again from October 11, when all returnees from Sabah, where most of districts were red zones, would have to undergo a mandatory 14 days’ quarantine.

This SOP was lifted on November 25, ahead of a crucial policy vote in Parliament on Budget 2021 on November 26, when Health Minister Dr Adham Baba announced that those returning from Sabah did not need to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine if they tested negative on a swab test taken three days prior to departure, although Sabah has still been reporting three-digit Covid-19 cases every day.

The average incubation period of the coronavirus is 5.1 days, and 97.5 per cent of people will show symptoms within 11 days. This means that some of those who tested negative during their first test may actually be infected as the virus has not fully replicated to be detected at the time of their test. People can still transmit Covid-19 even before they develop symptoms.

However, the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention is considering shortening its recommended 14 days’ quarantine period to seven to 10 days for those with a negative Covid-19 test, CNBC reported.

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