PETALING JAYA,Dec 22: Najib Razak’s proposal that Malaysia bar travellers from the United Kingdom and reinstate the 14-day mandatory quarantine has received mixed reactions from health groups.

Najib’s call came after the UK announced that it would be reimplementing strict lockdown rules over a Covid-19 mutation that has led to a 70% increase in infection rate.

Malaysian Medics International (MMI) supported Najib’s proposal, saying amendments to the SOP should be made as the Covid-19 strain evolves, although the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy said these measures were unnecessary.

MMI chairman Dr Vikkineshwaran Siva Subramaniam said the Covid-19 virus seemed to be very volatile, making it difficult to predict its behaviour, adding that the new strain has offset many earlier decisions.

He told FMT that the government should take this new strain into consideration to make changes as current global reports and recommendations were made prior to the new strain’s emergence.

“Reducing the length of quarantine to 10 days may make it easier for people by reducing the time they cannot work. A shorter quarantine period can also lessen the stress on the public health system, but any quarantine shorter than 14 days balances reduced burden against a possibility of spreading the virus.

“In fact, the CDC continues to endorse a 14-day quarantine,” he said, referring to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States.

He said Putrajaya should also consider barring South African travellers besides those from the UK as a new and more severe Covid-19 variant had also been detected there.

He said all international travellers should be vaccinated prior to travelling, adding that the best option would be to restrict entry into Malaysia in the meantime, on top of pre-flight screenings and the mandatory quarantine.

“We are not even close to the end of the tunnel yet. All our hard work this past year is at risk of becoming void. We cannot be complacent now. We need to toughen up.”

Galen Centre CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib, however, opposed the proposal, saying extending the quarantine would not make much of a difference and barring UK travellers was not necessary.

He told FMT that what was more important was for greater availability and deployment of the Covid-19 vaccine coupled with pre-flight screenings and mandatory quarantine.

“These are essential and they suffice. The period of quarantine is based on a better understanding of the coronavirus today and is in line with international recommendations.”

Najib made the proposal yesterday to restore the 14-day quarantine period for travellers from Europe and to bar UK visitors over the new strain.

He pointed out that other countries like Sweden, Canada, Turkey and Saudi Arabia had started barring travellers from the UK since Sunday.


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