KUALA LUMPUR - Hotels in Malaysia are being converted into quarantine and treatment centres for low-risk Covid-19 patients amid a dramatic increase in cases and a shortage of hospital beds.
An opposition lawmaker has urged the government to consider converting more hotels into quarantine centres, which will also help to keep the lights on at otherwise empty properties.
"This is also an opportunity to help the very badly affected hotel sector of the economy. With record low occupancy rates, many hotels have been forced to close down," Democratic Action Party (DAP) MP Ong Kian Ming said in a statement on Wednesday (July 14).
Coronavirus-swamped hospitals have been struggling to cope with the rising daily number of Covid-19 patients, which breached five figures on Tuesday (July 13).
Social media has been awash with pictures of overcrowded hospitals, quarantine centres, and Covid-19 assessment centres (CACs) in the Klang Valley.
Hotels have been used since the pandemic began as quarantine centres for overseas returnees, but now they are also being used as quarantine and treatment centres for low-risk Covid-19 patients, who are classed as category 1 (asymptomatic) and category 2 (mild symptoms).
Several hotels in the Klang Valley have already been converted into quarantine centres for such patients, including Saujana Subang and Royale Chulan Kuala Lumpur.
One positive patient who needed monitoring due to a high blood pressure reading during a health check at an assessment centre in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday (July 13) told The Straits Times that the medical officers found that there were no hospital beds available in the Klang Valley, including at private hospitals.
"I had to check into a hotel in Kuala Lumpur for quarantine and treatment. They told me that a doctor will see me twice a day," the patient, who declined to be named, said.
The hotels must ensure that doctors and nurses are onsite round-the-clock and provide three meals a day, while costs are paid for by the patients.
"From what I understand, the demand for these rooms have been extremely high, with most hotels reaching an occupancy rate of almost 100 per cent," said Dr Ong.
In addition to preventing overcrowding at public facilities, like the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang quarantine and treatment centre in Selangor, hotels are an option for those who prefer not to do so at home where they could expose their family members to the virus, he added.