Cops who handled Covid-19 body in self-quarantine

KOTA KINABALU: Twelve members of the police force are in home quarantine after handling a suicide victim’s body, unaware that the person had contracted Covid-19.

Kota Kinabalu police chief Asst Comm Habibi Majinji said the team had unwittingly handled the 26-year-old man’s body which was found hanged from a tree in a forested area of Pulau Gaya on April 6.

He said police received confirmation on Sunday that the dead man was Covid-19 positive after the deceased was screened for the virus during a post-mortem to determine the cause of death.

The procedure was conducted by the health authorities.

ACP Habibi said police had yet to identify the suicide victim as he had no personal identification on him.“We are still carrying background checks on the man, ” he said.

Hospital authorities have since buried the man as no family members or relatives came forward to claim the body.

ACP Habibi said the man is believed to have hung himself for personal reasons and unlikely to have known that he was infected by the coronavirus.

He explained that six policemen were directly involved in handling the body at the scene.

The other six who had indirect contact with the body were the police vehicle driver, photographers and other support staff involved in transporting the body by boat to the mainland and to Queen Elizabeth Hospital here for the post-mortem.

“The first test on the policemen was found to be negative. The second test will be known in a day’s time, ” he said yesterday.

He added that they were currently under self-isolation at home.

ACP Habibi said if anyone of them was found to be positive, they would shut down the police station in Pulau Gaya, which has a floating population of about 5,000 to 6,000 people of mainly naturalised Malaysians, Filipino refugees and stateless among illegal immigrants.

Islanders at Pulau Gaya, about a 10-minute boat ride from here, were not allowed to travel freely to the city’s mainland since March 25 after two positive cases of Covid-19 were detected.

Official figures as of March 31 put the number of positive cases on the island at three.

ACP Habibi said the restriction of people’s movement out of the island continued except for those boats allowed to ferry people on scheduled hours from the three villages in the area.

He also said that anyone coming from the island had to undergo body sanitisation and observe the set protocol on their movements on the mainland.

Meanwhile, those facing personal problems or contemplating suicide should contact the Befrienders hotline at 05-547 7933 (Ipoh), 04-281 5161 (Penang) or 03-7956 8144 (Klang Valley).

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