Swabbing suffice for staff without close contact

Expert says the most important aspects when it comes to the SOPs for employees going back to work is travel history and clinical features


EMPLOYEES, who have not come into close contact with people positive for Covid-19, followed by a negative swab test, are not required to undergo a two-week self-quarantine.

Osel Group chief clinical and innovative scientist Dr Kris See said unless an individual has a direct and close contact with a positive Covid-19 patient, then a strict RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) swab test, followed by a 14-day home quarantine, is mandatory.

He added that a lot has changed since the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) initial guidelines on employees returning to work.

“We need to take into account public health first, followed by community mobility and the socio-economic factors to devise the best possible standard operating procedures (SOPs) in the new normal.

“For most cases, if there is no direct contact, and if the individuals are not from red zones and have no symptoms, a negative antigen rapid test swab result is enough to allow individuals back to activities,” he told The Malaysian Reserve in a recent interview.

Dr See emphasised that the most important aspects to consider when it comes to the SOPs for employees going back to work is travel history and clinical features.

“The new normal encourages us to be adaptive to the ever-changing situation. Any SOPs must be adaptive to best fit the current health and socio-economic factors of the community.

“I believe we can come up with our own adaptive protocols, drawing references from WHO and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention,” he noted.

Previously, employers and workers have called for a clearer guideline on the implementation of the work-from-home order, which started last Thursday due to the government’s short notice and unclear SOPs over the matter.

After much confusion, Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the order will only apply to the public sector and industries under the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI).

Other informal sectors like the food, plantation, restaurants, grocery stores and security must continue to operate as usual under the new norms.

The minister also urged employers and workers to refer to MITI’s official website to understand which sectors can and cannot operate.

According to MITI, only a maximum of 10% of workers covering the departments, such as accounting, finance, administration, law, planning and others, can be in the office.

Working hours will also be limited to four hours from 10am to 2pm for three days a week. Meanwhile, the Public Service Department had put out a statement last week stating that only 30% of their workforce will be allowed to work from the offices, while the rest will work from home.

It said the onus will be on the respective department heads to decide who will work from home and who must come into office without much disruption to public service.

Following that, Ismail Sabri had announced that those who need to come to the office, but are living in red zones, as well as foreign workers employed as security guards and construction workers would need to take the Covid-19 swab test.

However, he clarified later that the mandatory swab test for workers in red zones only applied to foreign workers, while other employees in red zones are only recommended to undergo the test.

It was also said that the Social Security Organisation’s contributors in Sabah, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan can undergo the Covid-19 screening for free.