CAP calls for ‘forced quarantine’ of those returning from Indonesia tabligh gathering

CAP says those returning from Indonesia might be at risk of contracting the virus.

PETALING JAYA: The Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) has called for forced quarantine of 14 days for Malaysians returning from a tabligh (missionary) gathering in Indonesia.

It also urged the government to consider using Pulau Jerejak as a temporary quarantine centre for the northern region.

In a statement today, CAP president Mohideen Abdul Kader said the government should consider imposing a total lockdown soon because the movement control order (MCO) was not effective.

He said that according to Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, only 60% of the people were complying with the 14-day restriction, “and this percentage is unimpressive in a situation like this”.

Mohideen said Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein’s statement that Malaysians returning from Indonesia after their tabligh would undergo strict health screening and self-quarantine as required under the MCO ”was not reassuring at all”.

“This is because if the 83 participants can understand and respect the need for self-quarantine, they would not have congregated in such numbers thereby violating every rule in the book to reduce the risk of contagion.

“CAP would recommend forced quarantine for the duration of the 14 days upon arrival at the airport.

“They might be spreading the disease without exhibiting any symptoms during this period and we are concerned about the possible spread at the airport and during the flight itself.

“They might spread the disease to their household if they are quarantined at home,” he said.

On the suggestion to use Pulau Jerejak as a temporary quarantine centre for the northern region, Mohideen said it had been used as a health quarantine centre for immigrants in 1875 and was just a five-minute boat ride away from Penang island.

“It has land area, is isolated and about 6km from the Penang International Airport. In emergencies, transportation from the Penang Hospital can easily reach Pulau Jerejak’s jetty, a distance of about 11km, using Lebuhraya Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu in about 20 minutes. It is also accessible by sea,” he said.

He said Malaysia was not equipped to handle the Covid-19 pandemic or emergencies of a large scale because as at last November, Malaysian public and private hospitals only had a hospital beds to total population ratio (BPR) of 1.98 beds per 1,000 population.

“The average target for developed countries is 2.5 beds per 1,000 population. In simple terms, we do not have enough hospital beds to cope with a large number of cases that need admission.

“It is worrying because Malaysia’s 1.9 beds per 1,000 total population has remained about the same since 2012,” he said.