I was a close contact case and tested positive to covid-19 in Malaysia about 1 month ago. I naively thought that I was not going to catch it because I was taking so many precautions (minimal visit to malls, restaurants and wearing my mask). But the truth is we all got complacent at some point as this pandemic has dragged so long and somewhere somehow, I got infected.
When it happens, you do not really know what to expect and what to do. And truth be told, there isn’t much information or first account experience shared online that I could find myself.
Then – photos are inexistant, and it’s true. When I went through the process, massive no photo / video signs are everywhere. This will make for a less colorful article but I believe it’s important to share my experience and the one from my friends too. As we , unfortunately, ended up being a small group infected at the same time.
There is an overall stigma to catching covid in Malaysia. Even weeks after getting it, if you even mentioned you had it once, you will still be treated by some like you will have the plague for life.… it’s pretty surprising and sad. Discretion is probably a good policy.
I will share my experience with Home-quarantine: Provide you with (what I hope is) useful advice on how to prepare.
Even though I wish for you to not get infected, the truth is that it’s out there and it is better to have a plan in place. It will avoid unnecessary stress.
Finally, from my friend’s experience, who got hospitalized, the hidden cost & process for private hospital admission and the reality of how hard it actually is to get a bed today.
Home-quarantine in Malaysia, what to expect, how it works – my timeline.
DAY 1: I received results from my test: Positive (crap). I self-isolated in my master bedroom and my husband got into our second bedroom. The private clinic I went to has to declare you to the Ministry of Health (MOH). You are to wait for their call. I called all the people that I spent close contact with that I tested positive and informed our condo management that we were going under self-quarantine.
MySejathera status got updated to “Confirmed cases – asymptomatic”
DAY 2: MOH calls you and asks a series of questions to determine if you qualify for home-quarantine, have to be hospitalized or sent to a quarantine facility.
Questions asked are :
- Can you isolate in an ensuite room (room and attached bathroom with toilets)
- Do you live alone? Can your family prepare food and bring it to you or can you easily get food delivered to your doorstep?
- Do you have a private car? (that is not shared with anyone else). (see note 1 for this question)
- How old are you?
- Do you have any pre-existing medical conditions?
Based on your answers, they will decide if you are eligible to home quarantine. If yes, a Covid Assessment Center ( CAC ) will contact you within 2 days with an appointment to be assessed, to receive a pink bracelet and an official letter saying that you entered quarantine.
Regarding contact tracing, you are supposed to be contacted. MOH asks that you prepare passport numbers and contact information of any close contacts from the past 7 to 14 days prior to your first symptoms.
Close contact means: People you have been for 15min in an enclosed space without wearing masks or that you have been with without wearing a mask and without respecting social distancing.
My husband got tested.
You have to start filling up the health form on MySejathera app. It’s under “things to do” and it shows up at 9 am every day.
DAY 3: CAC contacted me via whats’app and shared the appointment time & date to pick up the pink bracelet. Husband’s test comes back negative. (absolute relief).
CAC shared by what’s app a link to a google form, which has similar questions to the MySejathera app. You have to fill this one, on top the MySejathera one, every day before lunch.
DAY 4: Appointment to the CAC and picked up the pink bracelet. There was 30 people starting home-quarantine coming to be registered at my time slot. One lady was there with a huge bag and she was to be transferred to a quarantine facility from the CAC. Minibus was there.
What happens: you queue, they ask you if you show any symptoms, take your temperature, snap the pink bracelet and give you a document.
They gave me the last appointment time on DAY 11 to remove the bracelet.
DAY 5 to DAY 8: Quarantine at home. Uneventful.
DAY 8: CAC shared the reminder on what’s app about my appointment to remove the bracelet on DAY 11.
DAY 9: Contact tracing from MOH called me and asked a few questions regarding people I may have had close contacts with. They were mostly enquiring about your work place, name of your workplace and other household members.
DAY 11: Morning appointment to get the bracelet out and receive the discharge letter.
Home-quarantine was comfortable and I basically worked from my bedroom for 10 days. My husband was less than pleased that he had to handle all the house chores though 😊. I was lucky that I showed no symptoms other than being extremely tired and needing to take a few micro-naps during the day.
Quarantine in Malaysia – hospitalization private or public – what to expect?
Some of my friends are older (above 60 years old) and we are all expatriates. Their experience with covid was a lot more stressful and I think dealing with MOH was actually more difficult than the disease itself. Luckily none of them developed severe cases.
It is important to note that at this moment Malaysia is starting to be absolutely overwhelmed and that frontliners are doing their best. But it’s only until you are going through the process yourself that you realize just how difficult the situation is for them and how difficult it is making it in turn for you.
There is just so much that a person can do in one day and the SOP are heavy and rigid for everyone to follow.
Low risk – no symptoms – above 60 years old: SOP requires that you be hospitalized.
It’s where things get complicated:
There is no space in public hospital for you, either because it's full or because you are not a priority case. You will receive an immense amount of pressure to find a private hospital.
You are provided with a list of about 35 private hospitals and you are required to call them by yourself to find a bed. Every day MOH calls you and pushes you. It’s SOP that you must be hospitalized. It’s important to note that my friends had only mild flu like symptoms. They were basically required to show that they were doing everyday their best endeavor to find a private hospital bed… even though there wasn’t one available.
Private hospitals do not call back. They also do not organize waiting list.
Private hospitals have a very limited number of beds dedicated to covid-patients so it’s very difficult to find a bed. If you have a GP or any medical practitioners that you have a privilege relationship with. It helps greatly.
All private hospitals require an upfront deposit payment between RM 10,000 and RM 30,000 per person to be admitted for covid patients. One private hospital even quoted RM 15,000 per 3 days and explained that you had to stay minimum 14 days. ( at that point everyone was already at DAY 5 of quarantine )
Private hospitals do not recognize the assessment from MOH nor your positive test. They can and will ask for a second assessment made by themselves (chargeable). So again, that means taking an appointment (praying that one is available the same day – remember MOH is still calling you daily at this point putting pressure) and breaking isolation to go to a hospital assessment without guarantee that you will be accepted for admission.
3 scenarios emerged from my friends’ experience:
After DAY 9 of daily calls and not finding any private hospital beds (and still showing less symptoms). My friends finally got approved to finish their quarantine at home and were given an appointment to the local CAC to get their discharged letter on DAY 12
One friend found a private hospital bed and got admitted. She received great care there. (but we are still waiting to know the actual bill…)
Our Malaysian friend was lucky to get a public bed and reported Sungai Buloh public hospital to be yes, not that comfortable (hospitals are not hotels anyway!), but she said it’s not a horror show (as some expatriates would make you believe) and she has received great care.
Personal thoughts and other ramblings on being covid positive in Malaysia
For close contacts which have been identified as such by MOH and who would have their MySejathera status updated. They will have to pay for a PCR test at the beginning, then fill up the MySejathera form and then do another test at the end. Plus now with the HIDE system, malls (vaccination centers too!) do not let them in anymore, so it impacts their life a lot for 10 days at least.
Both tests being out of your pocket – at a price between RM 240 and RM 300 per test. If you have a few household members to test – it’s a very unwelcomed expense. That is again, not refunded by any insurance. ( to the best of my knowledge )
Cost of testing is, in my opinion, also a major factor of why the virus is still moving around so much. Many lower income households can’t afford to quarantine or even to get tested when they are close contact. If you are in the financial position to sponsor your maid, driver or any staff the cost of at least the test, I would urge you to do so – for the community.
We received a lot of heat from friends accusing us of “how could we still be going out when we had covid” - as in we still have to go grocery shopping sometimes ! I really would like to emphasize that you can be asymptotic (that was my case). As a first contact, I did my due diligence and got tested – but under normal circumstances as I was showing no symptoms at all, I wouldn’t have known.
Once we knew, we warned everyone and did the right thing. So please don’t judge, show compassion and support. Most of us paid attention but it can happen to anyone – covid is out there. Be kind.
Do not overly panic as well, chances are you won’t develop any symptoms or be really ill. Just ensure you isolate as soon as possible to protect others who could be less fortunate.
Although I wish for none of you to get covid. I can only emphasize that the overall process can cause distress, apart of the apparent health risk of the disease itself. And it helps to prepare at minimum to reduce it: Where can you isolate, where is my nearest CAC, what does my insurance cover?
Please don’t get complacent, don’t succumb to covid-fatigue and follow SOP and most importantly: be kind and supportive of anyone who has been courageous enough to say he/she has tested positive.