Returnees must take Covid-19 antigen rapid test


Quicker result: The antigen rapid test kits being used in India showing negative results. — AFP

KUALA LUMPUR: Following the mandatory Covid-19 test on all returnees from overseas, some have asked whether they need to take all the three types of tests listed by the government or choose only one.

There was also a question about whether one of the tests listed – the antibody rapid test – should be used to test current infection.

The Health Ministry, in a reply to The Star, said that returnees must take the Covid-19 antigen rapid test to find out whether they were infected.

(The antigen test is the faster way to test the presence of ongoing infection although the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is the gold standard but takes a longer time.)

The ministry said returnees were required to install and register with the MySejahtera app (https://mysejahtera.malaysia.gov.my/) before returning to Malaysia.

Essential information such as travel date and time, flight information, port of embarkation, seat number as well as health declaration need to be registered in the MySejahtera app at least one day from date of departure.

Upon arrival at the point of entry, returnees will be held at the holding hall and are required to scan the arrival QR code of the MySejahtera app.

“They will then undergo thermal scanning and symptom screening, and a Covid-19 antigen rapid test.

“However, returnees who provide valid polymerase chain reaction (PCR) Covid-19 test result will be exempted from the antigen test, ” said Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

He said all returnees who tested positive for Covid-19 would be referred to the Covid-19 referral hospital whether they have symptoms or not, and regardless of their nationality.

The government started imposing Covid-19 test fee on June 29 at international entry points on those entering Malaysia, before they are let off by the Immigration Department.

The charges are also applicable to those who wish to be tested at the Health Ministry’s hospitals or clinics.

The fee for a Malaysian stated in the regulations are RM150 for a polymerase chain reaction method (for foreigners, the fee is RM250); RM60 for an antigen rapid test kit (RM120 for foreigners), and RM30 for an antibody rapid test kit (RM60 for foreigners).

The fees were enforced through the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (fee for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (Covid-19) detection test) Regulations 2020.

Asked the reason for the antibody test being used on returnees on the 13th day for those quarantined at home when it could not determine whether the infection was a current or past infection, Dr Noor Hisham said the antibody test was used on those who had tested negative before or upon entering Malaysia.

He also explained that the body starts having Immunoglobulin G (IgG) response from day seven from the onset of symptoms.

“We expect those who tested negtive earlier to have no antibody at all. Once they have tested negative with the antibody test, and confirms that there is no (SARS-CoV-2) virus in the body, we will release them from home quarantine.

“If antibody is present, we will proceed with the reverse transcription PCR and if tested positive, we will admit them into hospital, ” he said.

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