Dr Mahathir says family member who contracted Covid-19 told to quarantine at home, leaving household at risk

Ida Lim
·4-min read
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad speaks during a press conference at the Perdana Leadership Foundation in Putrajaya September 3, 2020. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad speaks during a press conference at the Perdana Leadership Foundation in Putrajaya September 3, 2020. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 22 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad shared a personal experience of how someone in his family recently tested positive for Covid-19, but was ordered to self-quarantine at home after displaying mild symptoms.

In his latest blog post, Dr Mahathir said that the family member’s condition worsened while being quarantined at home and had to be eventually admitted to the hospital.

“The problem is while being at home, the family member’s disease was spread to members in the household,” the former prime minister said, adding that he believed that the family member could not be admitted earlier due to the high number of Covid-positive cases in hospitals.

“If the patient is at home, the family members will be infected. Therefore more will be infected. They should have been admitted into quarantine isolated from the family,” the Langkawi MP added, saying that the patients may then subsequently return home from quarantine upon recovery or be admitted to hospital for treatment.

Dr Mahathir also said that the Covid-19 quarantine venue should be a suitable place, noting: “From photos obtained, beds are too close and when there is a visit by pembesar (leader), the patients will gather. This will cause the infection to spread.”

While he did not specifically mention the quarantine venue photographed or elaborate on the visit to quarantine centres, Dr Mahathir may have been alluding to photographs of the prime minister’s January 19 visit to the Covid-19 Quarantine and Low-Risk Treatment Centre (PKRC) at Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang (MAEPS), where individuals believed to be patients and healthcare personnel were seen gathering in groups without physical distancing while greeting the prime minister who was separated from them via glass doors.

Dr Mahathir went on to say that there are many ways and practices that could reduce the number of Covid-19 infections, expressing hope that specialist doctors could discuss these measures with government officers.

He reiterated that the services of Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah was much appreciated, but said that the pandemic “is too big to be handled by one person only.”

On January 17, Dr Mahathir had in an interview with news outlet Astro Awani congratulated Dr Noor Hisham on his successes in handling the Covid-19 pandemic, but said that it could not be handled alone, suggesting that the government establish a panel of medical doctors and leading medical practitioners to review the government’s efforts in the fight against Covid-19.

As early as January 4, 2021, the Health Ministry had already said it was considering quarantining Covid-19 patients who are asymptomatic and with mild symptoms at home as they make up to 90 per cent of overall cases, while the Covid-19 Quarantine and Low-Risk Treatment Centre (PKRC) were approaching maximum use of capacity. This potential measure was also mentioned by the ministry on December 28, 2020.

On January 12, the Health Ministry announced that Covid-19 patients in level one and two categories will be quarantined at home, if the home conditions are satisfactory including sufficient isolation space, with such patients to be placed at the hospital instead if the house is small or crowded.

On January 18, Dr Noor Hisham announced a detailed list of rules for home quarantine for Covid-19 patients who are not infectious or only have mild symptoms, while also stating that those under home quarantine must not be from high-risk groups such as the elderly or those with chronic diseases.

Among the rules to be followed for such home quarantine include to stay alone in a separate room with an attached toilet or with the shared toilet to otherwise have all surfaces cleaned each time after use, and avoiding face-to-face interaction with others in the house or for all to wear face masks if the interaction is unavoidable, and not receiving any visitors.

Other rules include having the person under quarantine reporting their health status daily through the MySejahtera app or to the medical officer in charge, and to inform Covid-19 Assessment Centre (CAC) or nearest clinic or call 999 if they feel their symptoms worsening.

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