Group moved to hotel after complaints about crowding, dirty quarantine centre (updated)

  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 08 Apr 2020

JOHOR BARU: A group of seven men who just returned on a ferry from Batam claims they had to endure an uncomfortable 24 hours after they were sent to a quarantine centre that was in unsatifactory conditions upon their return.

The men, all working on an oil rig in Myanmar, said instead of being put on home quarantine, they were sent to the centre in Jalan Gertak Merah here.

Unable to endure the dirty conditions, at least two of them posted pictures of their quarantine centres on Facebook.

However, soon after their plight was highlighted, all seven were moved to a five-star hotel in Johor Baru.

One of them, who wanted to be known as Chong, 50, an inspections engineer, said four people were placed inside one room which was in unhygienic living conditions.

His pictures showed dirty shared bathrooms, toilets and mattresses with holes.

Chong, who lives in Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, had been working in Myanmar since Feb 20.

He left to Myanmar by ship from Singapore, and upon completing the job on April 7. The ship was unable to dock in Singapore or Malaysia as both countries had movement restrictions in place.

His company then put the seven of them on a ferry from Batam.

They were the only passengers on the ferry, he said. When they arrived at Puteri Harbor International Ferry Terminal, Chong said they were screened and told to serve 14 days' quarantine.

He said were herded for registration without social distancing being observed.

"We were not given masks, and it was heartbreaking to see the rooms we were supposed to stay in," he said.

Another member of the group, Jaspal Singh, 47, also claimed there were no proper standard operating procedures (SOP) in quarantining people. He alleged the Health Department kept sending people to the hostel even though there were no longer any rooms left.

“There was no briefing, no temperature check, no face mask given and no hand sanitisers as well, and people were just spending their time outside the dorms and hallways as the place was packed with people.

“It was in a state of chaos, ” he said.

He said they were worried about being infected due to the poor conditions at the centre.

The group even tried to call other gazetted quarantine centres to see if they would be able to relocate.

Chong said a few hotels agreed to accommodate them but this required approval from the Health Department.

It was after numerous calls to some of their contacts their relocation was eventually approved.

In a press statement, Johor Pakatan Harapan said the control of Covid-19 might be critical, but the quarantine centres needed to be up to standard to ensure they were effective and not become a factor in spreading the virus.

"We have received complaints regarding the condition of the quarantine centres.

"Mainly that the rooms, toilets and bathrooms were shared with many and that the compound was dirty and not hygienic," the statement said.

With regard to hotels, Pakatan said that if the cost of accommodating people in hotels was too high, the government should provide a choice where those under quarantine could pay for their own accommodation in hotels or choose to stay at a clean and well-kept government-prepared quarantine centre.

Meanwhile, Johor health and environment committee chairman R. Vidyananthan when contacted said that the State Health Department had followed all SOP in the quarantine process and had transferred the group into a hotel.

“All SOP was in place, but since people are not happy (with the place), we have sent them to hotels, ” he said.

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