New Sabah chief minister Hajiji tests positive for Covid-19

Sabah Chief Minister Hajiji Noor is the second highest official in Malaysia to have tested positive for Covid-19.
Sabah Chief Minister Hajiji Noor is the second highest official in Malaysia to have tested positive for Covid-19. PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KOTA KINABALU - Sabah's new chief minister, Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor, has tested positive for Covid-19 and is being treated at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in the state capital, Malaysia media reported.

The news could alarm senior politicians around the country, as many of them had campaigned closely with him for the Sept 26 state polls.

Mr Hajiji's public relations secretary, Mr Effendi Mohamed Sunoh, said the Chief Minister's condition was stable. "Hajiji's condition is good and stable," he said, as quoted by The Star online news.

The statement was issued late on Friday (Oct 9) after rife speculation about his health on social media, and that he and his wife had checked into a hospital.

The Chief Minister, 65, is the second highest official in Malaysia to have tested positive for Covid-19, after Minister for Religious Affairs Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri.

Like Mr Hajiji, Datuk Seri Zulkifli, 51, campaigned in the Sabah state polls amid a surge in coronavirus cases in the state.

Sabahans voted on Sept 26 to elect a new government, after a 14-day election campaign that brought in almost all Cabinet ministers, including Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, and thousands of other campaigners.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin, along with a dozen ministers and deputy ministers, are currently in home quarantine after returning from Sabah.

Angry Malaysians in Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak, taking to social media and hanging banners from bridges in Perak and Johor, have blamed the politicians for bringing back the virus from Sabah into their states. This had led to a surge in cases from Kedah to Selangor to Terengganu in the past week.

PM Muhyiddin has acknowledged that the Sabah campaign contributed to the upsurge in coronavirus cases.

Many of the campaigners were put on home quarantine after they returned from Sabah, but several politicians, including Mr Zulkifli, had continued to hold events as usual until he was confirmed to have Covid-19.

Mr Hajiji's aide, Mr Effendi, told The Star that the Chief Minister had voluntarily gone into self-quarantine a few days ago after a member of his staff tested positive for the virus.

He said during quarantine, Mr Hajiji undertook a second test, which confirmed that he was Covid-19-positive.

Soon after winning the state polls, Mr Hajiji was locked up in long meetings with senior Perikatan Nasional officials for about two days as they tried to sort out who would be the next chief minister of Sabah.

This was because Umno-led Barisan Nasional, an allied party, had pushed the name of its Sabah leader as a potential chief ministerial candidate.

Despite being in hospital now, Chief Minister Hajiji will continue to carry out his duties and responsibilities via phones and teleconferencing in the hospital, his aide said.