A group of Malaysians who attended the tabligh gathering in Sulawesi, Indonesia tried to return to the country discreetly but their plan was intercepted by the authorities
According to Free Malaysia Today, twelve individuals were arrested at Tawau, Sabah over the weekend.
The group of tabligh attendees attempted to enter Malaysia via water route with a boat, but the joint patrols of the marine police, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, and armed forces managed to track their movement and eventually detain them.
Sabah state secretary Datuk Safar Untong had earlier announced that all those who wanted to return from Sulawesi would be barred from entering the state, reported The Star.
Safar said the restriction will be effective for 14 days beginning 21 March.
The security forces were alerted about their return after they arrived at Sungai Pancang in Sebatik Island, Indonesia from Sulawesi
Sebatik Island is the neighbouring island just under the northeast of Sabah.
The Star reported the group arrived at the island at 9.50am on Saturday, 21 March. They were later arrested in Tawau that evening.
They were then escorted to the Tawau Customs and Immigration Quarantine Centre, before being handed over to National Security Council personnel
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said yesterday, 22 March, that the group is currently under quarantine and being tested for COVID-19, reported New Straits Times.
He added that they were among the 80 to 100 Malaysians who attended the 'World Ijtima Asia Zone 2020', an event which was later cancelled by the Indonesian government on Thursday, 19 March, in view of the worsening COVID-19 situation.
However, Dr Noor Hisham said there were only 11 individuals detained yesterday, but Tawau police chief Peter Ambuas confirmed that there were 12.
Malaysia has been on high alert for the group of Malaysians, who attended the 8,000-crowd event in Indonesia following a similar gathering in Kuala Lumpur
The tabligh gathering at Sri Petaling Jamek Mosque, which took place from 27 February to 1 March 2020, was attended by over 16,500 people across Southeast Asia.
As of yesterday, the tabligh cluster accounted for 750 COVID-19 cases in the country, with at least six of them dead, reported Malaysiakini.
On 18 March, it was reported that there were 83 Malaysians among the thousands who attended a religious event in Gowa, South Sulawesi:
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