Detainees may have been in incubation period pre-detention: Health DG
Published:  Jun 4, 2020 10:40 AM
Updated: 11:08 AM

CORONAVIRUS | Some of the immigration depot detainees may have been in the incubation period when they were tested negative for Covid-19 before they were placed in the depots and later tested positive, said Health Ministry director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

He said another factor in the spread of Covid-19 among immigration depot detainees could be due to the crowded, congested holding areas.

“We actually admitted them to the immigration depots whereby we have done the screening.

“Maybe one or two of them during the screening were in the incubation period (so their test results) were negative and then when we placed them in the immigration depot, they became positive, they started to infect other detainees. That is one possibility.

“The other issue we have to look into is the cramped cells in the detention depots as well.

“So that is also one factor whereby if one case is positive then definitely it will amplify the infection in a small, confined space,” he said in his daily press conference at the Health Ministry today.

While the infections within the depots may be related to confined, congested spaces, he said the ministry was still trying to determine the cause of the infections.

Noor Hisham said there needed to be a multi-agency approach to holistically resolve the issues plaguing foreign workers.

“In terms of housing, accommodation and cleanliness, we looked into this. We already formed a committee under the National Security Council (NSC) so what is important is to implement (the solutions) with a holistic approach, looking into their housing, precautionary measures to avoid infection and also good personal hygiene.

“The Health Ministry has identified all these issues but the question is how to solve them. We need a multi-agency, whole government, whole society approach only then can we address this issue,” he said.

For undocumented migrants, he said they also have to look at deporting them as soon as possible once they test negative.

The Health Ministry is not only worried about confined and crowded spaces iat the immigration detention centres, he said, but also in prisons such as the Sungai Buloh Prison.

Currently, about 1,500 people including prisoners and prison staff at the Sungai Buloh Prison are being screened for Covid-19 after one prisoner was confirmed positive while being transferred to the Semenyih immigration depot.

So far, he said, there have been no positive cases reported at the prison.

Despite that, he said the ministry may relook protocols before admitting persons to detention centres such as screening them for Covid-19 before admission.

Screening of new detainees was already being practised at all immigration depots and it is also how the Sungai Buloh prisoner was detected with Covid-19 as he was being transferred to the Semenyih immigration depot.

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