Students returning to hometowns may spread infection, warns ex-deputy health minister

The Terminal Bersepadu Selatan in Tasek Selatan, Kuala Lumpur, was crowded with passengers lining up to buy bus tickets this afternoon.

PETALING JAYA: Former deputy health minister Dr Lee Boon Chye has raised concern over students travelling back to their hometowns and spreading the coronavirus to remote areas.

This follows the closure of all public and private universities until March 31 under the movement control order announced yesterday.

Lee, who trained as a cardiologist, said students do not have anywhere else to go other than their hometowns.

“That’s where the risk of infection comes in. By keeping them in hostels, there is also a risk of them spreading it to other students in the hostel but that is easier to contain.

“But now they are on the way in buses and other modes of transport nationwide,” he told FMT.

Due to that, he said shutting down of hostels may not be a good idea as students may risk infecting others.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, in announcing the movement control order on Malaysians to curb the spread of Covid-19, had said that all schools, private and public universities, and colleges will be closed.

Lee said hostels should have been allowed to stay open as it was easier to mitigate the spread of the virus, urging the government to allow students to stay on in their hostels.

He also urged Putrajaya to restrict interaction within communities infected with Covid-19.

He cited the example of an apartment complex where the whole building could be under lockdown until the building is disinfected and the residents only allowed out after they do not show any symptoms of the virus.

He said stringent measures were needed to fight this virus.

Meanwhile, PKR president Anwar Ibrahim, in his tweet, urged students not to return home as this may cause the virus to spread.

“I urge everyone to remain calm and stop panic buying too because it is not benefiting anyone,” he said, referring to Malaysians buying groceries in bulk.

This is despite the government’s assurance that supermarkets, grocery shops, convenience stores and markets will remain open during the movement control order.