KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Covid-19 pandemic, which has reached a critical level with a record high number of cases, has taken its toll on the frontliners with the police, medical and health workers being the hardest hit.
A shocking 10,000 police personnel are now under quarantine, with over 200 testing positive and undergoing treatment.
The large number of affected police officers has put a huge strain on the deployment of personnel and the police are now considering the situation as a security concern.
When contacted, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin confirmed the effects on the police force, saying that it had placed a serious strain on manpower and their work.
He said police personnel had been the most exposed to the virus because of the nature of their work.
"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, " he said.
Pleading for a stronger and united fight by Malaysians, he said the country was "running against time" and that there was a need for an end to incessant politicking.
The impact on the police force, which has over 100,000 members in all divisions, comes just weeks after a message by Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah that the frontliners had to endure the situation despite being tired.
"To all our frontliners, we have a huge battle ahead of us. Our country depends on us despite many sleepless nights and chronic fatigue, " he tweeted.
In another post, he told the front line workers that "sometimes when you do something right, no one remembers, do something wrong, no one forgets".
"More importantly you get most things in life not by taking but by GIVING, " he wrote.
In paying tribute to the police force, Datuk Seri Hamzah said many had worked tirelessly and had not taken off days or leave in the last 10 months.
He urged Malaysians to heed the advice of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, adding that "it was not the time for unnecessary politicking but for all to unite".
"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 since the pandemic hit Malaysia, especially during the movement control order (MCO) phase.
"Despite wearing masks, their job requires them to be near the person they are talking to, even if they are drivers inside vehicles.
"Social distancing is not something that can be perfectly practised when you are a police officer in a situation, " he told The Star.
On Oct 19,19 personnel from the Cheras district police headquarters tested positive for Covid-19, said Kuala Lumpur police chief Saiful Azly Kamaruddin.
He said there were other police personnel in the headquarters still waiting for their test results from the district health office.
"The operations of the station will continue as usual and the SOP set by the government will be adopted to curb the spread of Covid-19, " he reportedly said.
Last week, it was reported that Petaling Jaya police chief Asst Comm Nik Ezanee Mohd Faisal underwent a 14-day quarantine after coming into close contact with a Covid-19 case.
Petaling Jaya police's official Facebook page reported that ACP Nik Ezanee had been in close contact with a District Health Officer (PKD) during several meetings and discussions on planning operations to curb the pandemic.
The PKD attended a meeting with the security manager of a golf club here, and (both) were confirmed positive.
Mr Hamzah also said that police resources had been "stretched to the fullest" as the force had been helping the Immigration Department to prevent foreigners from entering the country illegally.
"Our fear is that many of these illegals are using what is termed lorong tikus or secret jungle paths. We believe many of these illegals are also Covid-19 carriers, " he said.
Recently, security forces detained 497 illegal immigrants and 28 skippers who attempted to enter and exit Sarawak via illegal border tracks between May 1 and Oct 18 during Ops Benteng.
The integrated operation, involving the Armed Forces, the police, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA), Health Ministry, the Customs and Immigration Departments and People's Volunteers Corps (Rela), had also deported 56 illegal immigrants within the same period.
As a measure to curb the spread of Covid-19 by illegal immigrants, Ops Benteng under National Task Force (NTF) coordinated by ATM as the leading agency continues to increase vigilance in border control in Sarawak, be it on land or at sea.
Mr Hamzah said vigilance had been stepped up in the border areas, including at the Kalimantan border, following the spike in Covid-19 cases in Sabah, adding that they also focused on lorong tikus in Sarawak.
He urged Malaysians to have a better understanding of the situation as to why the government needed extra tools to fight the pandemic.
"Is Act 342 (Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988) good enough to tackle the impact of the third wave of the pandemic?
"The answer is very subjective. Covid-19 started in Malaysia in early February and the number of positive patients accumulated to about 10,000 in seven months, whereas during the current third wave of the pandemic, it touched about 11,000 in just two weeks.
"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.