by ASILA JALIL / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL
THE government has tightened the existing standard operating procedures (SOPs) on the entry of foreign workers, following Malaysia’s first positive case of Covid-19 Omicron variant in Perak.
According to Bernama report, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin said the SOPs were tightened in accordance with the agreement of the National Security Council (MKN) to ensure that every individual who entered the country did not carry the dangerous virus.
He said foreign workers who entered the country are not exempted from the rules including ensuring they are vaccinated first and undergo testing and quarantine within the stipulated period before being allowed to work in plantations and other sectors.
“All employers should also accept this fact…which is important to protect the people’s health. The government is careful and follows all the stipulated SOPs for the admission of employees and tightens the SOPs agreed by the MKN,” he was quoted as saying.
The first Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus case has been detected in Malaysia involving a 19-year-old South African student who entered the country on Nov 19 via Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) from Singapore.
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar said last Friday that the individual is a student at a private university in Ipoh, Perak and had received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine on Sept 29 before returning home to South Africa to visit her family.
The Institute for Medical Research (IMR) had conducted PCR Genotyping Assay on 74 positive samples detected at KLIA from Nov 11 until Nov 28.
“The Health Ministry (MoH) had decided to do the tests on positive samples detected from Nov 11, before the date that the World Health Organisation announced the Variant of Concern, which was on Nov 24,” Khairy said.
The PCR Genotyping Assay conducted on the samples had detected the Omicron variant on Dec 2, in one of the positive Covid-19 cases.
The student completed quarantine on Nov 29 but was called back last Friday for PCR swab test with seven other close contacts. According to Khairy, the student had gone to Perak from KLIA using a bus provided by the university along with three other students.
She underwent quarantine alone at an accommodation provided by the university while her housemates stayed elsewhere during the quarantine period.
Seven other individuals that were called back by the ministry for PCR swab tests were her two housemates, the students in the bus with her, the bus driver and a university staff member.
“The individual did an RT-PCR test upon arrival at the international entry point in KLIA. IMR confirmed that the sample was positive with a CT value of 26.68 on Nov 20.
“The case proceeded to self-quarantine at her house for 10 days and completed quarantine on Nov 29. Contact tracing was conducted on all of the passengers on the bus with her and the bus driver.
“They also did the tests and underwent mandatory quarantine. The first and second samples on all four individuals in the bus came out negative,” he said, adding that the student did not show any symptoms while in quarantine.
Meanwhile, Khairy said the Malaysia-Singapore Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) by air and land will continue despite the cases discovered in both countries.
“I have spoken to my Singaporean counterpart and we reaffirmed that the VTL will continue. We also will update each other on a daily basis and coordinate on the response accordingly.
“VTL is still ongoing for now and travellers are required to conduct additional Covid-19 self-tests on the third and seventh days upon arrival,” he said.
Singapore reported its first two cases of the Omicron variant last Thursday. Its MoH said both cases were imported and had been isolated upon arrival from Johannesburg on Dec 1.
Khairy also said the SOPs for the Sarawak state election is almost completed as the MoH is finalising several other components before presenting it to the Election Commission Malaysia (EC).
The EC has set Dec 18 as the polling day for the 12th Sarawak State Election. Nomination day is fixed on Dec 6 while early voting is on Dec 14.