LABUAN (Sept 29): Thousands of Sabahans returning to the island after voting in the Sabah election on Saturday are delayed getting home due to the mandatory Covid-19 swab test they are subjected to upon arrival at the airport and two ferry terminals.

This situation began on Sunday and is expected to continue until the coming weekend as voters who reside and work in Labuan return home.

Last weekend, close to 6,000 people returned via the Labuan Airport, Labuan Ro-Ro Ferry Terminal and Labuan International Ferry Terminal, said Labuan Health Department director Dr Ismuni Bohari.

The department had set up 16 Covid-19 check stations and tents with chairs at the Membedai Health Clinic, he told Bernama.

The federal Ministry of Health (MoH) issued a directive on Saturday requiring everyone returning from Sabah to the rest of the country to undergo a Covid-19 swab test at the ports of disembarkation as a precautionary measure in view of the rising number of Covid-19 cases in the state.

Reported Covid-19 cases in Sabah reached 1,769 yesterday, with 869 recoveries and 12 deaths. Nationwide, the number of cases increased to 11,034, with 9,889 recoveries and 134 deaths.

Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the swab tests would be conducted from Sept 27 to Oct 10.

Ismuni said that to ease the crowds at the points of disembarkation, several health staff had been stationed on board the ferries to distribute the necessary documents that the people have to fill up prior to the test.

“As travellers disembark from the ferries, they would surrender the completed forms to the health staff at the terminals before taking the test. If the volume (number of travellers) is too high, tests will be scheduled for the next day at the Membedai Health Clinic. We are doing our best to ease the congestion … returnees with infants would be given priority,” he said.

Ismuni said it will take at least a week for the test results to be known.

Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob told reporters in Kota Kinabalu on Sunday that those returning to Peninsular Malaysia from Sabah are not required to be quarantined for 14 days if they test negative in the screening at airports.