Best to use designated centres for quarantine, say experts

PETALING JAYA: To prevent the spread of Covid-19, those returning from Sabah should be quarantined at designated centres and not at home, say health experts.

The home surveillance order (HSO) is the “second best option” but not the best, said Universiti Malaya epidemiologist Dr Awang Bulgiba Awang Mahmud.

The best option is to isolate returnees immediately in designated quarantine centres, he said.

“If the HSO is to be effective, it must be with double swab tests plus an electronic tracking bracelet.

“One swab needs to be tested immediately with a Rapid Test Kit-Antigen (RTK-Antigen) and another swab run with a RT-PCR (Reverse Transcription Polymerase chain reaction) test, ” he said.

Dr Awang Bulgiba said if the RTK-Antigen test was positive, then the person should be isolated immediately.

If it was negative, the HSO could be carried out. But if the RT-PCR test should later turn out to be positive, then the person should be isolated.

He pointed out that those undergoing HSO must ensure they were not exposed to others on the way from the airport to their home and to undergo strict quarantine in their own room for 14 days, adding that they should also not step out to interact with other family members.

“That is why the HSO is the second best option as there are many variables which are difficult to control, ” he said.

On Saturday, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah announced that those returning from Sabah to other parts of the country via international entry points would be required to undergo compulsory quarantine at home until lab results certified they were free of Covid-19.

The new procedure started yesterday and will be in effect until Oct 10.

In the past few weeks, Sabah had recorded a spike in cases, with several new clusters detected, including the Benteng LD cluster which has reported 776 positive cases to date.

As the Sabah election concluded on Saturday, it is expected that many of those involved will travel back to Peninsular Malaysia.

Malaysian Public Health Physicians’ Association president Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar also believes that returnees from Sabah should undergo mandatory quarantine at government quarantine centres.

Universiti Putra Malaysia medical epidemiologist Assoc Prof Dr Malina Osman also agreed that returnees be quarantined at the designated centres.

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