Adham: Ministers’ 3-Day Quarantine Only Allowed With ‘Bubble’ Overseas Itinerary

A bubble itinerary means the delegation only meets their overseas counterparts without taking part in any other outside activities between official meetings.

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 9 — Dr Adham Baba today clarified that he would only permit a shortened self-isolation period of three days for ministers returning from overseas if they strictly followed a bubble itinerary.

The health minister stressed that if Cabinet members failed to follow a bubble itinerary — in which the delegation only meets their overseas counterparts without taking part in any other outside activities between official meetings — then they would be subject to 10 days’ quarantine as usual like other overseas returnees.

“Each Cabinet minister must request for approval from the Prime Minister and the Cabinet before travelling abroad. Only a strict bubble itinerary can be allowed for this purpose,” Dr Adham told CodeBlue.

“I will evaluate and if they fail to follow a bubble working visit itinerary, then we go for 10 days. That’s clear.”

Dr Adham added that officers in ministers’ overseas delegations would be subject to 10 days’ quarantine upon returning to Malaysia, irrespective of their bubble itinerary.

He also said ministers would undergo a swab test upon arrival in Malaysia ahead of their home quarantine, like other Malaysians returning from overseas.

The health minister did not answer if Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who visited Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Jakarta on February 4 on a one-day trip, had been subject to three or 10 days’ quarantine. 

Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein yesterday went on a working visit to Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to meet his counterpart to discuss bilateral cooperation.

Dr Adham had signed off on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (Exemption) Order 2021 — which will be in effect from today until August 1 — that permitted ministers returning to Malaysia from official visits abroad to undergo observation for three days before discharge “without danger to the public”.

The minister’s order triggered widespread public outrage and complaints of double standards, as medical experts and MPs across the political divide say that the virus’ incubation period is up to 14 days. The hashtag #AdhamBabaLetakJawatan is trending on Twitter.

Since last December 13, Malaysia’s Ministry of Health has shortened the quarantine period for overseas returnees and close contacts of Covid-19 cases from 14 to 10 days, following a review of international clinical data. 

The United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last October that for most people infected with Covid-19, isolation can generally be discontinued 10 days after symptom onset and recovery from fever for at least 24 hours. For those who never develop symptoms, self-quarantine can be discontinued 10 days after the date of their first positive RT-PCR test.

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