Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba has explained that the three-day quarantine rule for Cabinet ministers is meant to secure more foreign investments for the country during this trying time
His response comes after the backlash for exercising his discretion as the Health Minister to allow ministers to fast-track their quarantine period upon returning to Malaysia from overseas trips.
Section 29 of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 confers Dr Adham the power to exempt any person from abiding by the provisions of the Act.
The order took effect on Tuesday, 9 February, and will last until 1 August, for the duration of the Emergency, reported New Straits Times.
Ordinary Malaysians will have to undergo a 10-day mandatory self-quarantine upon returning from overseas.
In explaining the exemption order, Dr Adham said the move comes with many conditions and it is essential to address the country's investment woes
Speaking to The Star, he said the exemption order only applies to ministers who go abroad for investment purposes. He stressed that there is a need to create a 'travel bubble' for them.
According to him, the country is losing RM600 million a day under the new Movement Control Order (MCO 2.0), and that spells an urgent need for such a leeway to bring in investments.
"According to the guidelines on the exemption order, prior to departure from Malaysia, ministers will have to take a swab test and if tested negative, they will be free to travel," the Health Minister said.
"After touchdown, they need to take another swab test and follow the host country's laws."
The ministers will also have to take a swab test before boarding a return flight and upon touchdown in Malaysia. Four tests in total.
"[If] found negative, they will be isolated for another three days for observation," he added.
After the quarantine, Dr Adham said the ministers will only be released after health authorities can ascertain that they are not a threat to the health of the community.
"If there is even the slightest indication that they may be a carrier or suffering from symptoms, then they will be placed under further observation until the health authorities are completely satisfied before releasing them," he said.
During the visit, the ministers' movements will also be strictly monitored
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah added that ministers are not allowed to engage in activities with large crowds or in public places, reported New Straits Times.
They also have to travel with a private aircraft for the trip too.
Once the guideline has been proven effective and safe, the standard operating procedures (SOPs) may be opened to business groups, said Dr Adham.
"We start with ministers first because it is easy to make an order before we open it up to the public... maybe businesspersons," he told Malaysiakini.
Dr Adham agrees that the 10-day quarantine period is valid due to the incubation period of the virus, but he said the move is not based on science.
"This is not about science totally. This is about how we regulate who will go abroad," he explained.
"Abroad, they don't have to quarantine, but they have to quarantine when they return. This is not fair."
Using Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin's recent visit to Indonesia as an example, he said the premier was not quarantined because Indonesia wants to open up the economy.
He also dismissed the calls for him to resign over the exemption order, adding that he has the authority to lock down the country in the past, now, he has the authority to open it up.
"I have to do something good for our nation," he said.
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