Quarantine policy fraught with logistics problems


I REFER to the recent announcement by Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob regarding signing of letters of undertaking agreeing to bear quarantine costs by returning Malaysians “that can be done at Malaysian Embassies and High Commissions”.

At this time, many countries in the world are still discouraging non-essential travel. While travel to embassies and high commissions can be considered essential, this exposes both them and diplomatic staff to the risk of infection, especially considering that our missions are usually located in large cities that are often epicentres of Covid-19 infection in each country.

This also risks importing the infection into Malaysia for those who obtain the letter and travel immediately while in the asymptomatic incubation period.

I am certain that Wisma Putra will already be considering electronic signatures for this document. May I go one step further and suggest that this letter only be applied to non-citizens who have a valid reason for entering Malaysia during the conditional MCO/pandemic?

For Malaysians, a simple advisory note issued by the airline at the check-in counter explaining the mandatory quarantine and associated cost (the subsidy provided by the government is a privilege, not a right) should suffice. This has the added benefit of reducing the administrative burden on our overseas missions.

For those who refuse to enter quarantine or pay the stipulated fees for the services rendered, there are adequate existing laws (e.g. Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act and the Penal Code) for arresting and charging them.

In addition, barring Malaysian citizens abroad from boarding a flight to Malaysia would be fraught with enforcement complexities. For example, the United States Immi-gration Service may decide not to further extend an expiring visa for a Malaysian citizen if flights leaving for Malaysia are available, and our citizen then risks immigration detention or deportation. In this example, US immigration laws would supersede Malaysia’s latest ruling for a Malaysian citizen on US soil.

Furthermore, Sections 6 to 10 of the Malaysian Immigration Act (Act 155) explicitly state that no approval documents are to be requested by the Malaysian Immigration director-general for citizens who wish to enter their homeland. The onus is simply on the citizen to prove their citizenship as per Section 7(3) of the Act.

I hope Wisma Putra can take the above into account when advising their missions abroad on implementing this latest policy.

DR MAX HU

Consultant Gastroenterologist

Worthing, England

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