On October 1, upon arrival at the KLIA 2 (Kuala Lumpur International Airport) from Kota Kinabalu, I had to take a Covid-19 test since I had returned from Sabah, where the pandemic was spiking.
I was in my home state for about two weeks to cover the Sabah snap polls. I was kesana kesini (here and there) in the second biggest state in the country.
In general, Sabahans abide by Covid-19 SOPs (standard operating procedures). They wear face masks and adhere to social distancing.
But sometimes in the heat of politics, I’ve seen politicians and their supporters unwittingly let their guard down. It’s difficult – and perhaps even politically incorrect – for politicians to refuse a handshake or move away from a supporter who wants to get physically close to them.
Even for someone like me, who nearly always wears a face mask and sanitises my hands frequently, I’ve found myself taking wefies with politicians without my face mask or observing social distancing. Truth be told, I’m not a fan of taking photographs with my mask on.
And politicians have obliged my request.
I also attended ceramah, spoke to voters and met politicians during the campaigning period. That put me in the high-risk group to be infected with the virus.
Many Malaysians are blaming the Sabah elections for the spike in Covid-19 cases in the country. They say that it was an unnecessary poll.
Depending on their political inclination, some are blaming Tan Sri Musa Aman for triggering the by-election because he got 32 assemblymen to support him as Chief Minister. Others point the finger at Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal for requesting the state assembly be dissolved after he had lost the majority for the same position.
For me, the argument is academic.
What happened is democracy at play. South Korea, Singapore and the United States have all called for elections during the pandemic, too.
From my conversation with government politicians clued in to the health catastrophe, the number of Covid-19 cases in Sabah was high even before the state elections. It was just that not much testing was done. Now, with more widespread tests, more Sabahans are being shown to be Coronavirus positive.
The government imposed mandatory Covid-19 testing on Sabah arrivals at entry points in Semanjung Malaysia and Sarawak the day after polling, Sept 26.
That meant that when I returned to Subang Jaya, I needed to take a test.
On my journey from KKIA (Kota Kinabalu International Airport) to KLIA 2, I braced myself for a three-hour wait upon arrival to get through all the red tape.
I was pleasantly surprised that the Health Ministry had ironed out all the creases after the Sabah returnees complained of long lines and lengthy waiting on the first day the mandatory testing was implemented.
“Was the test painful?” was a favourite question from friends.
The first test was to take a sample of mucus from my throat. A medical officer poked a 6-inch long (about 15cm) swab down my throat, which made me gag. The pain was temporary, though.
Next was the nose swab. The medical officer inserted the swab into my nose. It was not as painful as I imagined. In fact, the “ant-bite” of a needle prick during a blood test was more painful.
The whole process – filling in the required forms and the swabs – took about 45 minutes.
Next was the anxiety of waiting for the test result.
I was dreading getting a positive result. It would mean that the Ministry of Health officers would arrive at my Subang Jaya house in an ambulance and whisk me away to hospital.
I was under self-quarantine. I felt some stigma wearing the pink wristband. When the Grab Food deliveryman arrived at my house with my order, I would try to hide my left hand because I didn’t want him to feel uncomfortable being near someone who just returned from Sabah.
Five days after the test, I got a text message that I was Covid-19 negative. It was a relief for me.
I posted on Instagram and Facebook that my result was negative. Some concerned friends told me to take a second test. They said there were cases where a person’s test was initially negative, and when they fell ill, the results indicated they were positive. My office required me to take a second test, I told them.
I took the second test in a private hospital in Petaling Jaya. The second nose swab was quite painful. I saw “stars’ after the doctor poked the swab into my nose.
My second test was also negative.
But I still can’t shake off the stigma that I was from a red zone state. Some are still wary about Sabah returnees.
“You came back from Sabah? Are you sure you are Covid-19 free?” said a car service clerk.
“Yes bah, ” I duly replied.