‘Don’t make Covid-19 quarantine experience traumatic for returning Malaysians, foreigners’

Mortgage and real-estate business owner J. Ilan, who was quarantined at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur last month, says the service and attitude of government personnel stationed at quarantine centres in hotels require review.

From poor communication of standard operating procedures (SOPs), to acting like little Napoleons, the entire quarantine experience has made him think twice about leaving the country anytime soon, even for work.

While he had no complaints about the service by the staff of the hotel he stayed in, Ilan lamented the same could not be said about the Civil Defence Force and Health Ministry personnel stationed there.

Ilan said it started on May 2 when he returned from Amsterdam and stayed at Swiss-Garden Hotel Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur, as part of his quarantine process.

“On May 3, I ordered doughnuts for tea via a food delivery service. I was later informed that although the food had arrived, it would only be sent up after two hours,” said Ilan.

“I assumed it would arrive by 5.40pm. But at 6pm, when the food still hadn’t arrived, I called and was told by a Civil Defence Force officer that they would not be sending my doughnuts as they were not halal.

“I told the officer that they’re from Dunkin’ Donuts, and that surely, they were halal, but he insisted otherwise. He added that he would not send the food to my room.”

Ilan, who suffers from gastritis, said he called the hotel’s front office for assistance, but a staff said the matter was not under the hotel’s purview.

“I was told that even food deliveries were picked up by Rela (People’s Volunteer Corps) personnel when sent to the hotel,” said the 33-year-old, who needs to eat small meals often due to his medical condition.

“By this time, I was starving and ordered some spaghetti from the hotel. But I was only able to have it for dinner,” he added.

On May 6, Ilan decided to check with the government staff stationed at the hotel, to find out the list of food items that he could order via food delivery.

“I was told only fast food like McDonalds, KFC or Pizza Hut were allowed.

“When I pressed about doughnuts being fast food, the person was not bothered to listen, and instead, warned that he would send the police to my room and put me in the lock-up if I argued with them.

“I was completely dumbfounded,” he said.

But Ilan’s ordeal did not end there.

On Day 10, he was required to undergo a Covid-19 test and was informed that he had to wait for three days for his results.

“On Day 13, I called to find out about my status as I wanted to make the necessary arrangements with my family if I tested positive.

“I was told that everyone had gone for prayers as it was a Friday, and to call back in two hours.

“I called back two hours later but was told the health personnel had gone home,” he said.

Ilan said he found that strange as he thought that government personnel were stationed at the hotel round the clock.

When he queried, the government personnel he spoke with on the phone said: “Brother, we have been here for a long time. We can even bring our families here. The health officers have gone home because they need to send their family members home.”

“I told the officer that this was not right and that I would lodge a complaint. He said it was up to me as he did not care.”

Ilan’s ordeal continued the next day.

“I finally received my test results at 11.50am the next day and was told that I needed to check out by noon.

“I only had 10 minutes to pack up. I was glad to leave but because I was in a rush, I left some items behind.”

Ilan said he felt bad for the hotel staff as many others, who were also checking out at the same time, complained about their quarantine experience.

“I opted for the premium package, and the stay cost me RM6,000. But it was a harrowing experience and I hope others will not have to go through the same ordeal.

“Many, including foreign nationals, do not know that it’s not the hotel’s fault. Yet, the hotel’s image as a quarantine centre has been tarnished,” he added.

Another guest, who requested anonymity, said while the team of doctors stationed at the hotel were efficient, she wished the health personnel were more organised.

The 41-year-old chief executive officer said she was “scolded” by an officer on duty on the third day of her quarantine for “being slow” in opening her room door.

“I was still in bed when I heard a knock on my door around 9.30am. It took me some time to get dressed.

“When I opened the door, a health personnel who had wanted to place a quarantine band on my wrist yelled at me. He said he didn’t have all day as he had other rooms to go to.

“When I told him that I was unaware of his visit, he insisted all information were available on the government’s website.”

She added while she understood that the officer was tired or could be under a lot of stress, she hoped they would brief persons under surveillance well so they can adhere to all SOPs.

“It would have been better organised if the officers had informed us a day earlier of the processes involved. They could maximise time better if they informed guests in advance, rather than going door-to-door, waiting for people to open their doors,” she added.

It was reported recently that Malaysians undergoing quarantine at Hotel Istana had also complained about harassment from government personnel stationed there. The complaints ranged from harassment, and threats of being thrown in jail if they failed to pay for their hotel rooms.

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