Ministers returning from official overseas trips subject to quarantine, surveillance

Ministers returning from official overseas trips subject to quarantine, surveillance

KUALA LUMPUR: Cabinet ministers returning from official overseas trips are not only subject to a three-day quarantine but will also be placed under surveillance before they are discharged without danger to the public, said lawyer Datuk Mohd Haaziq Pillay Abdullah.

He said the quarantine period was not limited to only three days because it would also depend on the individual’s health condition upon returning from overseas.He said the latest Federal Government Gazette under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (Exemption) Order 2021 published on the Attorney General’s Chambers website on Feb 8 states that cabinet ministers returning from any official visit abroad must undergo three days of observation or surveillance before they can be discharged without danger to the public.

“Official visits (to other countries) are necessary to strengthen existing bilateral relations as well as expand the economy and get investments from the country concerned,” he said when contacted by Bernama, adding that the ministers would have to comply with strict standard operating procedures (SOP) implemented by the countries they are visiting.

“There is a difference between ordinary people (who travel overseas) and ministers who are on official visits. For ordinary people, we may not know where they have gone and who they have met. But for cabinet ministers on official visits, they have to follow the protocol set by the governments of the countries that they are visiting, which I believe must be strict,” he added.

Meanwhile, lawyer Datuk Adnan Seman@Abdullah said based on Section 29 (1) of the (342) Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988, the Minister may by order published in the gazette exempts any person or class of persons from the enforcement of any provision of the act or any regulations under the act, whereas Section 29 (2) of the same act empowers the Minister to impose such conditions under subsection 1 as he deems fit.

“Based on these provisions, the Minister returning from an official visit abroad is given an exemption by only having to undergo observation for three days or surveillance until he can be released without endangering the public compared to the 10-day quarantine period imposed on those returning from abroad,” he said.

He said, three days prior to their visit, cabinet ministers would have to undergo strict health SOPs where they would have to take the COVID-19 swab test and follow tight movement restrictions.

Adnan said in conjunction with the official visit by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to Indonesia recently, Indonesia had given the green light to the “Reciprocal Green Lane / Travel Corridor Arrangement (RGL / TCA) or better known as the travel bubble.

“Therefore, the exemption under Section 29 should be given for this travel bubble to be extended to countries other than Indonesia, especially neighbouring countries and Asia Pacific covering various sectors, especially international investment and business with strict SOP stipulations,” he said adding that the time has come for the implementation of the travel bubble as the COVID-19 pandemic could take some time to disappear.

“We need to learn to live in a pandemic environment and abide by all the SOPs and guidelines set. Life must go on,” he added.