Sin Chew Daily
In conjunction with the latest development, the health ministry has revised the quarantine duration for COVID-19 patients and close contacts.
The quarantine duration for vaccinated and asymptomatic Covid-positive individuals will be shortened from ten to seven days, while that for unvaccinated but asymptomatic cases remains at ten days.
As for close contacts, boosted individuals only need to be quarantined for five days. Seven days for fully or partially vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.
The latest directive is in line with the latest development of the pandemic, and such adjustments are necessary as the country is making a gradual transition to the endemic phase.
Shorter quarantine is not an exclusive measure in Malaysia, but more of a new global trend. Late last year, the US halved the ten-day quarantine duration for asymptomatic individuals to only five days., and the same has been echoed in the UK, Spain and France, among others.
Even though there is yet sign the pandemic is subsiding, with the US registering new records in daily new infections in excess of a million cases, many countries are already shortening their quarantine duration.
It sounds very illogical to cut quarantine duration as the pandemic is spiking, such a move is not wholly unfounded.
Despite the sharp increase in the number of new cases worldwide, Omicron, which is far less lethal and debilitating, has now overtaken Delta as the most dominant variant in many countries. Additionally, the Omicron strain has shorter incubation period, and hence te decisions by governments to shorten the mandatory quarantine duration.
It has been reported that according to an analysis by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), it offers almost as much protection for an infected person to be quarantined for seven days and testing negative on rapid antigen test, as another undergoing 10-day quarantine without any test.
It is believed that quarantine duration is shortened to ensure smooth operation of the society and for the economy to recover.
As said earlier, Omicron is now the most dominant strain with far better transmissibility, resulting in a surge in the number of new infections. It will cause a manpower crunch if everyone is put on longer quarantine, and this will impact the operation of businesses and other organizations.
By shortening the quarantine duration, asymptomatic cases can go back to work as soon as possible and this helps relieve the labor market pressure.
Although the authorities have their reasons to shorten the quarantine duration, experts are concerned that such a move may give rise to rapid spread of the virus.
All we can say is that there isn’t a perfect solution at this moment. Itt may not be the best solution, but is a feasible expedient solution. Moreover, we are already prepared to transition into the endemic phase and such adjustments are simply necessary to make our first step towards “living with the virus”.
More relaxations in the SOPs are anticipated in near future. As health minister Khairy Jamaluddin has said, we made some achievement in our battle against the virus last year, especially in vaccination, and we no longer need to reinstate the anti-virus strategies last year.
More importantly, Malaysians must fully cooperate with the government in observing the anti-virus protocol. Be it 10-day or 7-day quarantine, monitor our health conditions closely and let’s shoulder this shared responsibility to stop the virus.