KOTA KINABALU, Nov 26 ― The cessation of the 14-day mandatory quarantine for travellers from Sabah to the peninsula was not a political decision but a long-standing request from the state government, Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said.
Denying such allegations, the Sabah Covid-19 spokesman said that the state had requested that the federal government lift the restriction to facilitate essential travel between the east Malaysian state and the peninsula.
“I attend the National Security Council meeting on Covid nearly every day, I personally appealed to the federal government to lift the 14-day requirement long before the issue came up,” he said when speaking to reporters during a virtual press conference.
“There is genuine sentiment asking why are Sabahans subjected to this particularly harsh restriction compared to West Malaysians coming here. This was discussed at our meeting several times. When I attended the meeting, it had nothing to do with politicians, or the one mentioned,” he said.
He was asked to comment on criticism that the announcement of the end of the 14-day quarantine period was made on the same day there was a ruckus in Parliament caused by the controversial early release of Keningau MP Datuk Seri Jeffrey Kitingan, after just 11 days of quarantine upon arrival from Sabah.
Kitingan said that he had gotten written permission from a medical officer to be released from the mandatory quarantine earlier than the stipulated 14 day period. Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba made the announcement a few hours after the incident in Parliament.
Masidi said there was no political agenda to the decision, and it was purely to better facilitate essential travel needed for travels to and from Sabah.
“The numbers of Covid-19 cases have somewhat stabilised in Sabah so perhaps 14 days mandatory quarantine is not necessary to continue for what is considered essential travel between Semenanjung Malaysia and here.
“But this needs to be used with greatest caution ― the conditions must still be met and we cannot be too complacent. While we are trying our best to handle war against Covid ― there are essential travel needs to be done which we need to facilitate,” he said.
On a separate matter, he also thanked the federal government for an additional RM50 billion boost for Covid-19 matters in Budget 2021 today. He said this would go a long way towards helping Sabah as the worst hit state to deal with the ongoing issues faced by the people.
Sabah, which has 326 new cases today, bringing the total number of cases to 27,238, just under half the national figure, has been hit the hardest in this third wave to hit the country after the snap polls in September.
Many of the new clusters in the country during the third wave originated from Sabah and were given a prefix of “bah” before their names.
“Starting from September, some 25 clusters have been identified as originating from Sabah. That is quite a huge number. We don’t have the exact number of people from West Malaysia who have been infected from clusters from Sabah but at last count it was about 564. This is not including Labuan or Sarawak and this happened after the snap polls.
Today, Masidi also said that 734 of its medical staff has been infected with Covid 19 since the pandemic began. Out of the total, 85 people or 11.6 per cent are still active while 666 have recovered and 490 are under quarantine.