Mandatory COVID-19 screening for people returning from Sabah at all Peninsular Malaysia entryways have led to long queues and crowds at the airports on Sunday, 27 September
The Ministry of Health (MOH) announced the new rule on Saturday, 26 September, after Sabah recorded a recent increase of COVID-19 cases and clusters.
The end of the Sabah state election saw an exceptionally large number of travellers caught at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and klia2 yesterday, waiting to undergo a coronavirus swab test before being allowed to leave the premise.
While waiting in line, some returnees have taken to social media to lament that they have been waiting close to eight hours without any food or water.
While others worried that the crowded situation they were stuck in could cause a COVID-19 outbreak.
"Passengers who arrived in KLIA2 at 1pm only completed their COVID-19 test half an hour ago at 9pm," said Twitter user @thepurryness who uploaded a video showing a long line of people standing and sitting in the airport corridor.
"The rest are stranded without water and food. There are old people who have to take meds, babies and breastfeeding moms, and hungry children."
Meanwhile, Facebook user Mohamad Nazri Abdul Kadir shared that he has also been waiting close to three hours without any specific instructions from officials or been provided any small relief such as food and water since landing.
"Think about the children and the elderly. If it is so crowded like this, those who didn't have COVID-19 could get infected," he wrote, addressing the MOH.
"There can't be only four to five healthcare staff placed in KLIA for COVID-19 screening for the thousands flying in from Sabah?"
A returnee, who wishes to remain anonymous, caught in the queue at KLIA told SAYS that she had also waited for hours for the swab test to be completed
Coming back from Sabah, she landed at 6.40pm but finally only left the airport around 3am.
She said that they waited indefinitely with no instructions given upon landing and that social distancing was not practised.
"Plus they didn't separate people from different flights. Hotbed for cross infection," she told SAYS, while providing photos showing the crowded waiting halls.
In the eight hours that she waited, airport personnel distributed buns and bottles of water to the priority groups, such as the elderly and children, before they handed some to her.
Nonetheless, she said it was a test of patience and hoped the other flight passengers could think of all the overworked healthcare, police, and cleaning personnel who were carrying out their duties too.
MOH has since announced that they have dispatched more frontliners to the airports to cope with the volume of people that need to be screened
"MOH has increased manpower at KLIA and klia2 to carry out screening tests for all those coming back from Sabah at the international and domestic entryways," it said on its official Twitter account.
"This new rule began on 27 September, and all returnees will be given quarantine wristbands and are required to undergo the Home Surveillance Order (HSO)."
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