When the media is affected: My Covid-19 experience


NO one would have thought media personnel would be among those placed under a 14-day self quarantine for suspected Covid-19 exposure when chasing news on the political crisis over the last week. Being in the frontline of reporting, my colleague Martin Carvalho and I were among those who were identified as being at risk of contracting the virus, after covering an event of a former minister who came into contact with an infected person recently. Both the former minister and his deputy were believed to be exposed to the virus, because they had been in touch with a Covid-19 patient, who’s the 26th individual to be infected in Malaysia. As a precautionary measure, those who had covered the minister and his deputy were contacted by the company’s Group People Department and told to undergo tests for the virus at a designated medical facility. Several of my colleagues decided to head to the Klinik Kesihatan Sungai Buloh, where the tests were carried out. Ahmad Syukri, a videographer from The Star TV, was the first to arrive at the clinic at 8am, and was immediately isolated from the general public. “The doctors were surprised when I told them I was here for Covid-19 screening. “They immediately isolated me from the general public with a medical assistant dressed in full protective gear coming in to sanitise the area where I had been waiting at, ” he said. It was learned that medical facilities usually conducted screening on patients who are referred for tests and did not expect several walk-in patients to come all at once. Upon reaching the clinic, we were immediately greeted by medical staff wearing full protective suits who handed us face masks to put on. We were told to wait at a designated area outside the main building as our particulars were sorted out before we were called for examination. Owing to the queue, the newsmen had to wait their turn before being called into a small blue tent set up next to the main entrance of the clinic for testing. The medical officers, who were clad in full protective suits, subsequently called out our names one by one to take a nose and throat swab for tests. The screening also included checks on temperature, heart rate and pressure. “The medical officer also asked my medical history and if I had heart problems or diabetes,” Martin Carvalho from The Star said, adding he was informed that the results would be known the following day. The reporters were later issued a “Home Assessment Tool” advisory and a 14-day daily self-check list for them to monitor themselves. Among the things told to look out for under the 14-checklist were fever, cough, chest pains and breathing difficulties. The advisory also contained the names of two doctors and a medical assistant to contact, in the event there were Covid-19 symptoms. If there are no symptoms, we were told to come to the clinic on the 14th day to undergo a second test. However, we were advised to immediately go to the Sungai Buloh Hospital for quarantine, if these symptoms show up over the next few days or so. Praise must go to the medical personnel at Klinik Kesihatan Sungai Buloh, as they had attended to media personnel with care, diligence and the utmost adherence to SOPs. Despite being in full protective gear complete with face masks, visors and gloves in the humid weather, they went about doing their job in jovial, calm and professional manner. The medical officers were also calm and attentive when answering queries by anxious media personnel. At this stage, most reporters who are deemed “persons under surveillance” for 14 days are self-quarantined, while others who showed symptoms will have to return to the clinic within three days for another check up. Other reporters are also abiding by the self-quarantine rule by working from home during the quarantine period. Media personnel who are working from home are also adapting well, given the availability of technology and social messaging applications such as emails and WhatsApp. “We are quite used to working away from the office and receiving instructions from the office through WhatsApp. “So, working from home is no different, as we can still conduct phone interviews and send in our stories online,” said Carvalho. “But in truth, the 14 days self-quarantine at home is quite a long time and we can’t wait to get back to office and return to some normalcy,” he added. Tarrence Tan is a reporter with The Star



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