DESPITE being among the first states to be declared a Covid-19 green zone, the Penang government is not taking it easy in its bid to contain the pandemic.
In another revolutionary move to stop the virus, the state has decided to set up a swab lab at the Penang International Airport (PIA) to increase the efficiency of health screenings there.
The proposed lab at Level Three of the PIA is believed to be the first of its kind in any airport in Malaysia.
State Secretary Datuk Abdul Razak Jaafar said the state government is concerned with the wellbeing of Penangites that it determined to fund the cost of the lab, amounting to RM174,100.
“The lab will be equipped with biosafety cabinets, swab chambers and a work station. It will be a permanent lab, aimed at speeding up the Covid-19 health screening operations at the airport.
“The lab can be used for other health screenings in the future,” Abdul Razak told Buletin Mutiara during an exclusive interview on June 26.
According to the Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB) Air Travel FAQ during the implementation of the recovery movement control order (RMCO), Malaysians and permanent residents can return to Malaysia from abroad during this period.
Spouses and children of citizens holding long-term passes and foreign diplomats serving in Malaysia are allowed to enter the country.
Families of foreign diplomats are also allowed to enter if they are issued with a Dependent Pass.
According to the FAQ, the passengers have to undergo a Covid-19 swab test.
Abdul Razak said the state government saw the need to have a swab lab at the Penang airport following the announcement by the federal government which imposed the new policy on individuals entering Malaysia through International Arrivals.
The new policy, effective June 10, allowed home quarantine for Malaysians (who are tested negative for Covid-19) returning from abroad.
“Currently, we have the capacity to receive up to 150 flight passengers a day. We have enough Covid-19 test kits and we have enough manpower.
“Presently, the swab samples which are taken at the airport are sent to the clinics and hospitals to obtain the test results.
“We hope to expedite the process with the setting up of the lab; where the tests can be conducted, and results can be obtained from the lab at the airport,” he said.
He added that the lab could potentially increase the airport’s capacity to receive up to 300 flight passengers a day.
Abdul Razak said construction of the lab was in progress and would take about two weeks to be completed.
He also spoke about the state’s ‘green zone’ success.
“The joint efforts of all parties, including government agencies, local enforcement officers and district offices, helped the state to achieve and maintain its ‘green zone’ status.
“We took early preventive measures and we studied and strengthened the SOPs.
“Furthermore, Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow’s Facebook Live updates enabled the public to understand the Covid-19 situation in Penang better,” he said.
On June 19, Penang International Point Health Office health officer Dr Izani Uzair Zubair told Buletin Mutiara that the PIA followed strict standard operating procedures (SOPs) with regard to entry of international passengers.
“The inbound passengers from abroad will have to fill in a health declaration form, pass through a thermal scanner and undergo health screenings. Those are among the procedures that they have to follow when they arrive,” he said.
Story by Christopher Tan
Pix by Noor Siti Nabilah Noorazis and Ahmad Adil Muhamad