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Here’s Why We Can’t Expect Self-Quarantine Orders To Work

Here’s Why We Can’t Expect Self-Quarantine Orders To Work

While it might sound like a good idea, it’s impossible to properly social distance at home.

Tasneem Nazari

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Malaysians returning from abroad from 10 June 2020 were told that they no longer needed to undergo the 14-day quarantine at government facilities. Instead, they were allowed to self-quarantine in the comfort of their own homes.

For the first month or so, everything seemed to be going fine. Then, in early July, the daily number of new cases started to rise again. At the same time, more and more pictures of people openly breaching their home quarantine order were shared on social media.

The reality of the matter is that self-quarantine at home would naturally be inadequate compared to the controlled environment of a government-managed quarantine facility.

Requirements for self-quarantine

Credit: bignai/Freepik

The World Health Organisation (WHO), recommends 10 requirements to follow when undergoing a self-quarantine at home.

  1. Allocation of a separate room for the patient with adequate ventilation if possible. Other household members should be separated from the patient.
  2. A distance of at least one meter (Health Ministry recommends 2 meter distance) should be constantly maintained between the patient and other household members.
  3. Other household members should use a separate bathroom. If no separate bathroom is available, regular cleaning of taps, doorknobs and utensils with soap and water is required.
  4. Minimise visitors to the house. The patient should not interact with any visitors.
  5. Frequent hand hygiene, including washing for at least 20 seconds at a time and use of hand sanitiser.
  6. Patient and household members should avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  7. Monitor the patient’s body temperature twice a day.
  8. Never reuse used disposable gloves and facemasks, and dispose of them in a closed container.
  9. Assign separate dishes, drinking glasses, eating utensils, towels, bedding, and other items for the patient.
  10.  Used utensils, bed linen and clothes should be washed with soap and water.

The Malaysian Health Ministry has very similar requirements under its guidelines, though, not as detailed.

Government managed quarantine facilities have more protocols

(Credit: MAEPS/Facebook)

In comparison, the guidelines for managing patients in government quarantine facilities also include all of the above, with extra precautionary measures. Here are some of the extra measures we found from the Health Ministry’s website:

  1. The patient should be placed in a single room with an en-suite bathroom if possible. 
  2. If sharing rooms is unavoidable, distance between beds must be at least 1 metre. Only positive patients can share a room.
  3. A room to keep consumable items, medication, bed linen, and PPE should be prepared.
  4. Non-critical patient-care equipment, such as stethoscopes, should be dedicated for each patient. If this is unavoidable, then they must be adequately cleaned, disinfected and sterilised between use for each individual patient.
  5. All reusable patient care utensils must be put into biohazard receptacles and labelled for cleaning and disinfecting.
  6. All waste disposals from patients should follow the guidelines of Clinical Waste Management.
  7. Environmental cleaning and disinfection procedures must be followed consistently as per hospital recommendation.
  8. Daily cleaning and disinfection must be done on surfaces likely contaminated and in close proximity to the patient – like bed rails, tables, door knobs, and bathroom.
  9. Cleaning must be more frequent using standard hospital registered disinfectants if these areas are visibly soiled 
  10. Rooms should be decontaminated from highest to lowest point, and from least contaminated to more contaminated. Even curtains need to be removed and disinfected.

Obviously, government managed facilities would have the resources and equipment to follow the requirements above. 

Even following the requirements for home quarantine is difficult

Besides social distancing, you’ll also have to constantly disinfect things in your house. (Credit: Freepik)

If you live alone, following the guidelines should also be relatively easy. Since there isn’t any risk of you accidentally infecting any housemates or family members. As long as you don’t go out, or have any visitors. Though, it would be an awfully lonely experience.

But the reality is that most of us can’t afford to live alone, and often live with other housemates if we aren’t living with our family. 

READ MORE: Home Quarantine Means You Can’t Even Hang Out In The Living Room

Additionally, not many of us can afford to live in such a large house that will allow a patient under self-quarantine to have their own room and “en-suite bathroom” or adequate space that enables us to keep a 2-meter distance from other household members at all times.

You can see this issue happening in real-time with the Melbourne and Novgorod clusters which basically came about from family members accidentally infecting each other.

Covid-19 risks become so much more dangerous when a member of the household is also a Covid-19 high-risk individual, like a child, a senior citizen, or someone with a critical illness such as diabetes, or heart disease.


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