Health DG: Covid-19 quarantine increased to 21 days for recent Malaysian returnees from India

Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah speaks during a press conference after visiting Putrajaya Hospital in conjunction with the Aidilfitri celebration, May 13, 2021. ― Bernama pic
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah speaks during a press conference after visiting Putrajaya Hospital in conjunction with the Aidilfitri celebration, May 13, 2021. ― Bernama pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, May 14 — Malaysians and their families who returned from India over the past two days will have their mandatory quarantine period for Covid-19 extended from 14 days to 21, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah announced today.

Dr Noor Hisham said this decision was made after a risk assessment and because several the returnees have been confirmed to be positive for Covid-19 despite testing negative prior to their arrival here.

He also said the Health Ministry will consider whether such an extended quarantine period of 21 days should be imposed on other Malaysians who return from India.

In a statement tonight, Dr Noor Hisham noted that India has been recording over 300,000 new Covid-19 cases every day since April 2021 and that such figures are the highest globally, further highlighting that this has led to the Malaysian government’s approval of a Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief mission to bring Malaysians and their spouses or families back from India.

The humanitarian aid mission was coordinated by the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) with the cooperation of agencies such as the Foreign Ministry, Health Ministry, the Fire and Rescue Department, Airport Fire & Rescue Services (AFRS), the police, Aviation Security (Avsec), the companies Follow Me and UTW Electrical and a private transportation firm.

In the mission involving 219 personnel and collaboration between government agencies and private companies, a Malindo flight had on May 11, 9.15am departed for India and landed safely at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) on May 12, 12.53am, bringing back 132 persons (92 adults, 40 children) to Malaysia.

Of the 132 individuals brought back, they comprise of 64 male and 68 female, with 117 being Malaysians, eight being Brunei citizens, four Denmark citizens, two Indian nationals, and one Indonesian.

“This mission only brought back passengers with negative RT-PCR Covid-19 test results only,” Dr Noor Hisham said, noting that the 20 personnel who were on the flight had donned full personal protection equipment (PPE). The 20 personnel were 14 crew members, four Health Ministry personnel, one member each from Nadma and the Foreign Ministry.

Dr Noor Hisham said the passengers were taken through a special route to KLIA’s Air Disaster Unit to undergo health screening immediately upon landing.

“It was found that no passengers displayed symptoms, but swab samples were taken from them for the RT-PCR test for Covid-19. The test results obtained on May 13, 2021 showed seven of the 132 passengers had tested positive for Covid-19 with a positivity rate of 5.3 per cent,” he said.

“Taking into account such test results and the risk assessment that had been carried out, the Health Ministry has therefore decided to extend the mandatory quarantine period for passengers who had arrived from India under the HADR mission on May 12, 2021 and also passengers who arrived through repatriation flights on May 13, 2021, that is from 14 days to 21 days,” he said.

Dr Noor Hisham said these returnees from India are required to undergo the mandatory quarantine at the government-designated quarantine stations, and will have to undergo RT-PCR tests for Covid-19 according to the standard operating procedures stipulated.

“Further, the Health Ministry will monitor this situation, and will carry out risk assessment immediately to look at the need to extend the quarantine period from 14 days to 21 days for all other passengers that will arrive from India (such as Malaysians). The existing restriction for non-citizen passengers from India to Malaysia is still in force as usual,” he said.

Dr Noor Hisham’s statement comes amid efforts to curb the new Covid-19 variant from India — known as the B.1.617 variant — from entering the country, a variant which he said was reported to spread faster and result in more serious symptoms including in those aged below 50.

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