By Shanika Abdullatib and Soon Li Wei / BERNAMA
Recently, a woman dubbed as Makcik Gelang Pink (Pink Wristband Auntie) and a few others gained infamy on social media when photographs of them went viral.
They were wearing pink wristbands, indicating that they were persons under surveillance (PUS) who were supposed to be undergoing mandatory14-day quarantine at home after having returned from abroad and Malaysians were infuriated by their audacity to be seen in public.
Soon after that, following the sudden rise in new COVID-19 cases, the government overturned its decision to allow home quarantine and effective July 24, all Malaysians returning from overseas must undergo compulsory 14-day quarantine at dedicated quarantine stations, either at a hotel or Public Training Institute.
This ruling was first imposed on April 3 but it was replaced with the home quarantine order on June 10 following the enforcement of the Recovery Movement Control Order.
As of yesterday, Malaysia has recorded a total of 8,999 COVID-19 cases. Active cases numbered 210, compared to only 63 on July 9.
HOTELS AS QUARANTINE CENTRES
Now that hotels – whose businesses were badly hit during the MCO from March 18-June 9 – are allowed to operate as usual, are they willing to have their premises used as quarantine stations?
According to National Disaster Management Agency (NADMA) director-general Datuk Mohtar Mohd Abd Rahman, some of the hotels that served as quarantine centres previously had pulled out this time as they wanted to focus on reviving their businesses.
However, he said, this is not a problem for NADMA as the State Disaster Management Committee in charge of managing quarantine stations has received applications from other hotels offering their premises for quarantine purposes.
“We’re grateful there are many others (hotels) who wish to cooperate with us and willing to offer their hotels as quarantine stations even though they have to observe strict SOPs (standard operating procedures),” he told Bernama.
On Aug 1, Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob was quoted as saying that between July 24 and July 31, a total of 3,384 individuals returned from abroad and are undergoing quarantine at 14 hotels and five Public Training Institutes in Kuala Lumpur, Negeri Sembilan, Penang, Kelantan, Sarawak, Selangor and Johor.
The same SOPs for the April 3 quarantine order will apply under the July 24 quarantine order and these include not allowing individuals to choose their quarantine centre. The centre designated to them upon their arrival will depend on which quarantine station is available.
On NADMA’s level of preparedness in the implementation of the quarantine order in view of the increase in PUS cases due to the emergence of new COVID-19 cases, Mohtar said the agency is well-prepared and that it has made several improvements to the quarantine process as “we learned a lot from our previous experience”.
“The improvements we’ve made will facilitate monitoring and management by the medical and security teams as well as our secretariat at each quarantine station that operate 24 hours,” he added.
FOLLOW SOP, PREMISES DISINFECTED
Meanwhile, a hotel marketing manager, who declined to be identified, said although the hotel he worked for was previously used as a quarantine station, its image was not “tarnished” and it has been attracting guests after it reopened for business.
“Our hotel was gazetted as a quarantine centre (during the MCO) and we’ve been adhering to all the necessary SOPs, such as disinfecting our premises each time a PUS leaves the hotel after quarantine.
“Even now, we’re always cleaning and sanitising our premises to ensure that our rooms and public spaces are safe for our guests,” he said.
He said although hotels designated as quarantine stations are not allowed to accept guests, the hotel operators view it as a positive move as it will help to revive the industry.
The general manager of a three-star hotel in Kuala Lumpur, who also did not want to be named, said his hotel is willing to be used as a quarantine station for PUS cases as it would help his hotel to recover some of the losses it had incurred since the MCO was enforced.
“Before the MCO, 60 percent of our guests comprised foreign tourists. Now we only have a 10 percent occupancy rate and the hotel had to reduce its workforce,” he said.
As of July 24, Malaysians who undergo mandatory quarantine at government-designated stations must pay a maximum of RM2,100 or 44.7 percent of the quarantine charges. Non-Malaysians have to pay RM4,700 per person.
Under the first compulsory quarantine order, the RM150 a day quarantine cost was borne by the government.