PUTRAJAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Covid-19 patients who have mild or no symptoms will undergo treatment and quarantine at home, but they will be monitored strictly by health workers, says Health Minister Adham Baba.
The home quarantine applies to Level 1 and Level 2 Covid-19 patients, which are codes for patients who are tested positive but showed no symptoms and mild symptoms, respectively, Bernama news agency reported.
"We are doing this as we need to act fast in treating and isolating positive cases and, to this end, the Ministry of Health (MOH) will continue with contact tracing in efforts to flatten the Covid-19 curve, " Datuk Seri Dr Adham said after attending the ministry's New Year mandate ceremony in Putrajaya.
He said Level 1 and 2 patients will be quarantined at home for 10 days and a screening test will be conducted on them on the last day. The government has formed a task force at the Crisis Preparedness and Emergency Response Centre level, state and district levels to monitor patients being treated at home.
"The screening test will be done in their respective homes and if the result is negative, they are free from Covid-19, " he said.
Dr Adham said ministry staff will assess the size of the house and number of occupants before allowing these patients to undergo treatment at their respective homes, adding that if the house is small or crowded, the patients will be taken to hospital.
"If the facilities at home are satisfactory, with sufficient space for isolation and the family understands the need for quarantine and the standard operating procedures set by the ministry... they will be treated at home, " he added.
He said Health director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah will give details on the home treatment and quarantine soon.
His comments would be welcome news to the health workers, many of whom were relieved at the new movement restrictions imposed across the country by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin which takes effect on Wednesday.
"The announcement made by the Prime Minister is something that I truly support. It can control Covid-19 transmissions," said 36-year-old health inspector Sekri Li.
"It has been awhile since I took any off days and sometimes, I do feel tired and traumatised by it all... There were a few of times I had to shout at random strangers, asking them to wear their masks. There are some parents who would bring their children out without wearing a mask and that irks me because my colleagues and I have been working non-stop," said a 30-year-old nurse who wished to be known as Orked.
"Although I believe the conditional MCO should have been implemented earlier, I guess it is better late than never, " she said.
Tan Sri Muhyiddin, who announced the new measures in a televised address on Monday, said the country's public health system is at a breaking point. Over 15 of the country's more than a hundred public hospitals are nearing capacity.
Dr Adham said the public hospitals will now be giving priority to Level 3 cases, which are patients with pneumonia, Level 4 patients who have inflammation in the lungs and require oxygen and Level 5 patients, who are in the late stages of the illness and require ventilator support.
On Jan 4, Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham said MOH was considering isolating and treating Covid-19 patients who are without symptoms and or with mild symptoms at home, as the existing health facilities are not able to cope with the surge in daily cases.
Malaysia reported a record of 3,309 cases on Tuesday and 4 new deaths, bringing the total number of cases to 141,533 with 559 deaths.
Other countries have also opted to have Covid-19 patients with mild symptoms undergo isolation or quarantine at home.
In the United States, those who tested positive for the virus but who are asymptomatic are required to stay at home until it is safe for them to be around others.
People who display symptoms of Covid-19 but are able to recover at home can also undergo isolation at home, said the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, if patients manifest emergency warning signs such as trouble breathing or persistent chest pains, they are required to seek emergency medical care immediately.
In Singapore, quarantine orders are issued to those who are confirmed or suspected Covid-19 cases and Singapore's health ministry will determine if an individual should be quarantined at home or at quarantine facilities or hospitals, based on an assessment of a person's contact history, state of health and suitability of the home.
Travellers from selected countries may be able to serve their 14-day quarantine period at their place of residence rather than at a dedicated facility.
At immigration checkpoints, eligible travellers are issued electronic monitoring devices, which are activated immediately when they reach their quarantine accommodation.
In Australia, those who screened for the virus or who display symptoms are required to stay at home until they have tested negative or they are no longer exhibiting symptoms.
Those who are considered a suspect Covid-19 case will be advised by the public health authorities on whether they are to be isolated at home or in the hospital.
When isolating at home, patients whose symptoms get worse are to seek emergency medical attention.
While guidelines for home quarantine across different countries vary, common principles would be for patients to stay in a room separate from other household members.
Patients are encouraged to use a separate bathroom if possible and to avoid sharing personal household items with others.