Malaysia: Political crisis

200 police officers test positive for Covid-19; up to 10,000 quarantined

A shocking 10,000 police personnel are now under quarantine, with over 200 testing positive and undergoing treatment.
A shocking 10,000 police personnel are now under quarantine, with over 200 testing positive and undergoing treatment.PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's third wave of coronavirus outbreaks has taken its toll on front-line workers, with up to 10,000 police personnel under quarantine and medical staff and health workers among the hardest hit.

More than 200 police officers have tested positive for Covid-19 and are undergoing treatment.

The large numbers have put a huge strain on the deployment of personnel, and the police are now considering the situation a security concern.

When contacted, Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin confirmed that the pandemic had placed a serious strain on police manpower and their work. He said police personnel had been the most exposed to the virus because of the nature of their work.

Malaysia has seen new daily cases hit record levels in the past week, spiking at 1,240 infections on Monday.

Yesterday, the health ministry reported 835 new coronavirus cases, raising the total to 28,640 infections. Two new fatalities were recorded, taking the total number of deaths to 238.

"The Covid-19 outbreak started in Malaysia in early February with the number of positive patients accumulating to about 10,000 in seven months. But during the current third wave of the pandemic, it touched about 11,000 in just two weeks," Datuk Seri Hamzah said.

Paying tribute to the police force, Mr Hamzah said many of them had worked tirelessly and had not taken any days off or leave in the past 10 months.

"Many of our policemen have been infected because their work requires them to be in red zone areas during operations and checks. They are also exposed when they man the 500-over roadblocks set up since the pandemic hit Malaysia, especially during the movement control order phase," he said.

He noted that the policemen wore masks, but their jobs required them to stand close to the people they spoke to.

"Social distancing is not something that can be perfectly practised when you are a police officer in that situation," he told The Star.

Health director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah had said weeks ago that front-liners had to keep battling the pandemic despite being tired.

"To all our front-liners, we have a huge battle ahead of us. Our country depends on us despite many sleepless nights and chronic fatigue," he had tweeted.

Mr Hamzah said that police resources had been "stretched to the fullest" as the force had been helping immigration officers apprehend foreigners entering the country illegally.

"We believe many of these illegals are also Covid-19 carriers," he said.

He also indirectly referred to the government's proposal to implement emergency measures to tackle the pandemic, which was rejected by the King, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah, on Sunday.

Critics said the measures would have allowed Parliament to be suspended and Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to avoid facing a budget vote.

Urging Malaysians to better understand why the government needed extra tools to fight the pandemic, Mr Hamzah said it was subjective as to whether existing laws such as the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 were sufficient to tackle the resurgent infections.

"We are running out of time. This is not about politics or helping certain politicians to become prime minister. This is about saving lives as the number of Covid-19 cases will keep going up unless we do something drastic," he said.

Mr Hamzah said Malaysians should stay united in combating the virus, adding that "it was not the time for unnecessary politicking".

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2020, with the headline '200 police officers test positive for Covid-19; up to 10,000 quarantined'. Print Edition | Subscribe