Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has pointed out that Malaysians returning from overseas have the potential to contribute to the number of imported cases of COVID-19.

He said the Ministry of Health (MOH) initially expected those returning from China, Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea to be high-risk possibilities, but the situation has become more worrying now after more than 172 countries clamped down on overseas travels.

“Our concern is that of imported cases (where) anyone coming to our country might have the potential to carry the virus.

“I’m worried because if imported cases are not managed well, we (might) get an exponential spike in the number of cases in mid-April because the incubation period is about two weeks. So, this is the concern we have and that’s the reason we implemented this Movement Control Order (MCO).

“We realise that our students are returning from overseas. This is another challenge for us, when we have imported cases.

“(The) First wave (was) related to tourists from China, directly and indirectly. (The) Second wave (is) related to imported cases,” he said during a daily press conference of COVID-19 at the ministry here today.

Dr Noor Hisham also reminded those returning to the country to obey the MCO guidelines set by the government, which includes a 14-day quarantine.

In another development, he said 752 people returning from overseas were being quarantined in selected hotels and, from that number, eight were found to have symptoms of COVID-19./p

“The eight cases are actually positive temperature scan, so we need to isolate them for further investigations in hospitals,” he said.

Asked if it was advisable for Malaysians working in Singapore to be exempted from the stipulated 14-day quarantine upon their return to Malaysia, Dr Noor Hisham said that it was possible based on the agreement between the MOH and its Singapore counterpart.

“(Our) Agreement with our counterpart in Singapore is that Malaysian workers in Singapore wanting to come back have to be tested in Singapore.

“If (they are) tested negative, then we do not need to repeat it, thus MOH will accept the negative test result,” he said.