Filth and fury at hotel-turned-isolation centre in KL

Jerry Choong
The clogged toilet bowl in one of the hotel rooms. — Picture courtesy of R. Sangkari

KUALA LUMPUR, April 8 — Dilapidated conditions and unsanitary facilities have left several of those quarantined at a hotel-turned-isolation centre after returning from abroad shocked and upset.

Reports of clogged toilets, an infestation of bedbugs and other vermin, dusty bedding and dodgy food have emerged, even as the premises’ management has struggled to address the issues.

The 148 quarantined individuals are among those who returned from Tiruchirappalli in south India on Saturday morning, as part of the government’s efforts to repatriate Malaysians due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Although it is now compulsory for returning Malaysians to be quarantined for 14 days, the group was only informed of their destination shortly before departing Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).

Student R. Sangkari, 22, originally from Melaka, said they were told it is a hotel in KL, in the vicinity of Chow Kit.

“When we arrived there, the hotel did not seem unusual from the outside. They divided us into two groups, with 19 people in Tower A, and 129 in Tower B. But almost all of us found the same conditions,” she told Malay Mail.

In Sangkari’s case, her room’s toilet is clogged and lacks a flush button. Her initial attempts at unclogging it were unsuccessful, forcing her to relieve herself elsewhere.

“The room itself is very poorly kept, with a noticeable layer of dust on the bed and seats. It was particularly shocking when I found many cockroaches scurrying around.

“The other quarantined people and myself attempted to get the management to do something about it, but instead, we have been ignored. Whenever we call reception, they simply hang up upon hearing our voices,” she said.

To make matters worse, Sangkari claimed the food offered by the hotel is poorly prepared and half-cooked, and does not include vegetarian options.

“Some of us do not eat meat out of religious obligation, so it is problematic for us as a result. But to the hotel management’s credit, a new chef was brought in yesterday who can now prepare vegetarian food for those requiring it.

The general condition of the hotel rooms is one of neglect and filth, with pests such as cockroaches plentiful and poorly maintained amenities. — Picture courtesy of R. Sangkari

“We are not asking for luxuries, but only basic necessities. We were told by the management on the first day that we are free to leave for other quarantine centres, but cannot return if we change our minds. So many of us decided to stay as we are not sure if the other quarantine locations are better or worse,” she said.

Sangkari added that the biggest fear of those quarantined at the hotel is falling ill or becoming infected with other ailments or diseases unrelated to Covid-19, due to its unsanitary conditions.

“I know of several people who began sneezing heavily when they arrived at the hotel, as their allergies are aggravated by the constant presence of dust in the air and beds. We only hope it will not lead to anything worse,” she said.

When contacted, the hotel’s management declined to comment, citing the sensitivity of the issue as it pertains to Covid-19. However, another quarantined individual said the hotel has begun to take steps to address their complaints.

A businessman in his 40s from Cheras, who only wanted to be known as Calvin, stated the management has since said it will provide a vacuum cleaner for each room, along with supplies like cleaning products for the bathroom/toilet.

“They told us we would have to clean the rooms by ourselves, and I understand this is because the Health Ministry has prohibited the hotel’s staff from coming into close contact with us, out of concern over Covid-19’s transmission chain.

“I think the management had to do something as several of the other quarantined people told me enough noise was made that it had become an issue on social media. Apparently, a police report might be filed later on,” he said.

However, on his part, Calvin said the hotel management has now proven itself to be amenable to the suggestions made by those quarantined within its premises.

“Most of us here, including myself, do not have a problem when it comes to cleaning our own rooms with the tools provided, as we understand the staff cannot risk potential exposure to the virus. If anything, we take it as a form of exercise.

“Simple surroundings for two weeks is good enough for us. It is only the lack of hygiene that is a cause for worry, especially since there are women and children among those quarantined here,” he said.

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