Health Ministry: Many factors to consider before reopening borders

  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

PETALING JAYA: There are a multitude of factors to consider before deciding to reopen Malaysia's borders, says Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

He said tightening border controls were vital to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Of the 360 Covid-19 positive cases from Malaysians who returned from abroad, he said 88 tested negative when their first swab samples were taken.

He said the 88 only tested positive on the second swab on the 13th day of their quarantine.

"Because of that, we are very concerned over reopening the borders, that would be the 'last option'.

"But most importantly, we are looking into local transmissions first," said Dr Noor Hisham in his daily briefing on Wednesday (May 13).

He added that once local transmissions were contained, then the government would look at the global situation before deciding to open up the borders.

Dr Noor Hisham said even when Malaysia's borders are reopened, there would be standard operating procedures (SOP) such as a two-week quarantine period, among others, in place.

"These are the considerations we have, but no decision has been made yet.

"At the moment, we need to tighten border controls and make sure Malaysian returnees undergo mandatory quarantine and we will conduct swab tests on them," he added.

Dr Noor Hisham believed that the country can be protected with the current action plan in place and reminded everyone to comply with SOPs in place.

To another question on allowing hair salons and barber shops to operate, Dr Noor Hisham said that the Ministry was observing the number of active Covid-19 cases on a daily basis.

He said a decision will be made in time to come if the R0 (R-nought) of the Covid-19 outbreak can be controlled.

R0 is a term that shows how contagious an infectious disease is.

Currently, the R0 has been brought down from a high of 3.5 to 0.3 due to the measures in place during the various phases of the movement control order (MCO).

However, the R0 outcome during the conditional MCO is yet to be seen.

Dr Noor Hisham said the R0 outcome of the conditional MCO could be seen from May 18 onwards.

"If cases after the 18th are still within our control, then we can open up more and more economic sectors, but with SOPs.

"If the cases or R0 increase, then we have to reverse our decision.

"The choice is now up to the public, whether we can comply with the social compliance, social responsibility and social discipline.

"If we can comply with our SOPs and further bring down the R0, then rest assured, we will open up more economic sectors.

"We will also consider (opening up the) the social and education sectors," he said.

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