The relaxation of quarantine rule for ministers returning from overseas trips is merely for trips concerning investment purposes, said Malaysia’s Health Minister, Dr Adham Baba on Wednesday (10 Feb).
Ministers returning from overseas trips are now allowed to be under a shorter quarantine period than others who had gone on such trips — namely three days instead of 10 days.
Netizens reacted negatively to the news, calling out the “double standard” in rule enforcement.
Dr Adham told The Star that public backlash over the new ministerial order was due to a lack of official explanation, which led to presumptions on the part of the public.
The minister explained that the exemption order for Cabinet ministers comes with many conditions and is not as simple as it seems.
“The exemption order only caters to Cabinet ministers needing to go abroad for investment purposes right now, due to the necessity to create a ‘bubble’ to allow them to travel,” Dr Adham said.
He added that due to the current travel restrictions, such a leeway to bring in investments is urgently needed as the economy was losing more than RM600mil a day.
Dr Adham said that minsters will follow the guidelines for the new order thoroughly, noting that the ministers will not be freed from isolation immediately after the three days.
He added the exemption order was made after discussions with health authorities and the Cabinet, using the powers accorded to him as the Health Minister under Act 342 (Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988).
He also said that once the guidelines are put in place and tested — starting with Cabinet ministers for now — this regulations may be opened to business groups.
“The economy needs to recover and we need certain exemptions to encourage investors who are shying away from the country due to the many restrictions,” the minister added.
However, netizens are still unsatisfied with the laxity given to Cabinet ministers, despite justification from Dr Adham on the new rule.
Netizens on Facebook criticised the minister for not learning their lessons after Sabah state election — which allegedly caused a spike in COVID-19 cases in West Malaysia — when Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri said no quarantine was needed for returnees from Sabah who had gone to the East Malaysian state to vote.
Many also called out the government’s incompetency, with one user saying that they have “failed themselves as leaders” by “jeopardizing the people”.
Another user commented on the soon-to-be-released regulations, stressing that they should have been drawn up and released prior to any official visits by Cabinet ministers.
Several others questioned why the ministers could not just have online meetings.
One user urged the ministers to adopt “new technology”, in line with the ‘new normal’ in the current pandemic situation.
Netizens also commented on how the leeway should also be given to others such as private sectors and the general public who need to travel for the same reason.
Meanwhile, a number of netizens called on the Health Minister to resign.
One netizen suggested “the fastest way to restore investment is to restore democracy”, adding that the Emergency declaration should be lifted so Parliament can convene.