Experts back quarantine policy but urge caution

PETALING JAYA: The medical fraternity has welcomed the Health Ministry’s latest quarantine policy, but some parties urged caution when dealing with those from high-risk countries.

Volunteers for community engagement and empowerment for Covid-19 president Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar lauded the latest quarantine policy, describing it as safe and based on current available evidence on virus transmissibility and vaccine effectiveness.

“However, people who are coming from high-risk countries and who have not been fully vaccinated should not be allowed home quarantine. They should be quarantined at designated centres so that the virus can be contained if they happen to contract it.

“As for fully-vaccinated travellers who contract Covid-19 within 11 to 60 days prior to their arrival, they too must quarantine at home or at designated centres to ensure that they are safe, as this will protect people around them,” he said.

Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Associations Malaysia (FPMPAM) council member Dr Lim Kuan Joo said based on current trends and vaccination status, it was safe to relax the quarantine restrictions.

“The policy changes are based on epidemiology and as such, the current standard operating procedure (SOP) is as it is. We cannot equate changes to clarity.

“Whether the statements are clear enough or not is subject to changes. It is better that the Health Ministry publish the actual guidelines that are issued at all points of entry to avoid confusion,” he said.

Malaysian Medical Association president Dr Koh Kar Chai said there was a trend now for some countries to relax their guidelines in a bid to return to normalcy, with some opting for a slow relaxation and some, like the United Kingdom opting for the other extreme.

“The new quarantine policies are clear enough, though there are complaints from some saying that we should not relax the requirements for certain travellers and there are others crying foul because they are the ones subject to more stringent measures.

“The Health Minister has a team of advisers who constantly update him on the current Covid-19 situation in different countries and he has based the quarantine policies on that,” he said.

Dr Koh, however, added that it is necessary to have an adequate length of quarantine time for a series of Covid-19 tests to be carried out.

“I don’t see changes in quarantine policy as a flip-flop or being inconsistent. Instead, the changes seen are an indication that it is consistent with the labile nature of the pandemic, with each variant having its own characteristics, forcing countries to change their pandemic policies in trying to deal with it,” he said.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin was reported to have said that the decisions were made based on data, science and the experience of the other countries that have been managing international travellers.

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