Quarantine considered for returnees from Sabah polls

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 13 Sep 2020

PETALING JAYA: The Health Ministry is mulling whether there should be mandatory quarantine for those returning to the peninsula from Sabah after the state election but the move has yet to be immediately embraced by others.

An epidemiologist said there should be an assessment of the Covid-19 situation in the state during the polls before such a decision is made.

If the infections are proven to be localised and contained within detention centres or prisons during the election period, then the infection risk would be low and a quarantine would not be necessary, said Prof Dr Awang Bulgiba Awang Mahmud of Universiti Malaya.

But if there were evidence of widespread community transmission during the election, then quarantine would be necessary, he said.

“In order to aid decision-making, I would suggest that the ministry implement real-time syndromic surveillance in all of its health centres which have Internet access.

“This data analysis should be done by Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre (CPRC) every day so that there is no delay in detection.

If unusual spikes are detected, then targeted testing can be carried out in those localities to see if there are Covid-19 cases there, ” said Dr Awang.

Yesterday, Bernama quoted Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba as saying that the ministry was considering imposing mandatory quarantine for those returning to the peninsula after the Sabah polls.

“We will conduct a study on the risk every day and this will be discussed during a special meeting on Covid-19 together with the National Security Council, ” he told reporters in Port Dickson yesterday.

There has been a big jump in the number of infections in Sabah in the past few days, with most of the cases coming from the Benteng Lahad Datu cluster.

This cluster started on Sept 1 after two illegal immigrants were caught during Ops Benteng, which is a joint operation by the police, armed forces and other agencies to nab undocumented foreigners.

The first cases were found following a Covid-19 screening on detainees at the Lahad Datu police headquarters.

The infections subsequently spread to the Tawau prison after some of the detainees who had travel history to Lahad Datu infected other inmates there.

This cluster registered 44 infections yesterday after 167 cases were detected on Friday.

Meanwhile, Bersih 2.0 said a quarantine would discourage Sabahans, who are intending to return home to vote, from doing so.

Its chairman Thomas Fann said the cost of quarantine would also be burdensome, as voters would have to fork out for the flight ticket as well.

If the quarantine were to be imposed, he said it would impact politicians, party workers, Election Commission staff as well as observers who would be going to Sabah for the election.

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