Up to 32,000 Malaysians were planning to holiday overseas, says health DG

The health ministry says hundreds of Malaysians had planned to travel overseas during the school holidays which started in mid-March.

PUTRAJAYA: The health ministry revealed today that one of the reasons the movement control order (MCO) was implemented was because the government learnt that 8,000 civil servants had booked flights to high-risk areas during the school holidays.

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said it was feared that this might trigger a third wave of Covid-19 infections in the country.

He said the ministry had found out that 8,000 civil servants from just one ministry had booked flights to Japan, Korea and other countries and “there were many more from other ministries”.

“Three weeks ago, we predicted a possible third wave or tsunami of infections.

“This was from just one ministry. With parents and two children, 32,000 Malaysians could have possibly gone overseas,” he told a press conference.

Malaysia imposed the MCO on March 18 — just days after the school holidays started — and it has been extended to April 14.

Noor Hisham said one of those confirmed positive — case No. 26 — had travelled to Japan and caused a second wave with hundreds of new cases recorded.

“That was why the health ministry was afraid after learning about the mass exodus during the school holidays.

“We would have seen an exponential spike, and we would not have the capacity to place 32,000 people in quarantine centres,” he said.

The best way to deal with the problem was to implement the MCO to ensure people were quarantined at home, he added.