COVID-19 has claimed 24 lives and infected 2,301 so far. With this worrying rise in the number of cases, we’re also facing another problem: Patients are not revealing about being in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus.
Now this has caused hospitals to shut down, and medical staff are urging people to comply with the regulations to prevent more positive cases from coming up.
So imagine this scenario: You’re 10-days into the Movement Order and you’ve been staying at home all day. You can’t help but hear your neighbour cough every other minute. You also remember him telling you, that he went abroad for a business trip 2 weeks ago.
You can’t help but wonder now if he might be infected with the virus. What’s more worrying is, he occasionally goes grocery shopping at a nearby market. As a concerned citizen and neighbour, you wonder if you can do anything to stop him from spreading any infection he might potentially carry—and isn’t seeking any treatment for it.
But before we know what steps to take, let’s briefly look at what the law says if a person who is infected with COVID-19, does not reveal himself to the authorities.
Refusing to inform authorities is a crime
The last thing any sick person would want is to go to jail for being sick. However, there are some cases where Malaysians refuse to reveal that they might possibly have contracted the viral infection from someone who has it.
Such a case was reported in Kedah, where a private hospital had to be shut down for 2 days, because a Malaysian woman did not reveal that she had been in contact with a relative who was tested positive for COVID-19. Now this is potentially an offence under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988. Section 12 of the Act states as such:
Anyone who thinks that he might possibly have the COVID-19 infection should not simply move around, especially in public places. Doing so can carry a fine, imprisonment up to 2 years or both.
Now if a person has been tested positive but refuses to follow the quarantine order given, the law has penalties for such cases too. Section 271 of the Penal Code states that:
If a person breaks the quarantine rule despite being asked to do he can be imprisoned up to 6 months, given a fine or both.
When a person is given a quarantine order, this would most likely be due to the exposure to someone who has been tested positive for COVID-19. The Ministry of Health has certain guidelines on how to manage those who have been exposed to positive COVID-19 cases. Here’s a chart on what MOH will do:
When given a quarantine order, the District Health officers would call or make surveillance visits to the person’s home. The person under quarantine would only be allowed to leave their home after being tested negative within a 13-day surveillance period.
But if you’re not infected with COVID-19 but know someone who might be, what can you do?
Malaysians are required to report them to the authorities
If someone is showing symptoms of COVID-19, but is reluctant to seek treatment—you have the legal responsibility to report this to the authorities.
Section 10(1) of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 states that:
The Act essentially says that anyone who is aware that a person might be infected with COVID-19 must inform the nearest District Health Office, government medical centres or the nearest police station. This should be done in the shortest span of time to prevent the disease from spreading to other people.
If you try and “help” the person who’s already sick by not urging him to get medical treatment, you can be jailed up to 2 years, given a fine, or both. So perhaps it’s best to report or inform the authorities as soon as you suspect someone might be down with the infection.
And to make things easier for us, the Health Ministry has set up several hotlines you can call, if you have any information about someone who isn’t seeking treatment despite having COVID-19.