Malaysia’s Deputy Communications and Multimedia Minister Zahidi Zainul Abidin became the fourth Minister to test positive on Jan 13 for COVID-19 this month.
“Zahidi is now in stable condition and apologises for any inconvenience caused,” a statement from his office said. “He also prays that God makes it easier for all those who are involved (in contact tracing).”
The statement from his office says he underwent screening for COVID-19 upon returning to Kuala Lumpur from Penang on Monday. The test came back positive on Wednesday morning.
Mr Zahidi took a COVID-19 test on Dec 25 last year, and it came back negative.
He is the fourth Malaysian Cabinet ministers to test positive for COVID-19 in four days. In Malaysia, they call it the Cabinet Cluster.
The other Ministers are the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Economy) Mustapa Mohamed; Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rina Mohd Harun; and Home Affairs Minister Hamzah Zainudin.
They are not the first Ministers to have tested positive. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Datuk Dr Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri tested positive for Covid-19 last year. The minister confirmed this on his Facebook page on Oct 5.
Last year, in Oct, another deputy minister, who is an Umno Senator, tested positive after returning from the Sabah state in Borneo. The Sabah election could be the trigger for the current hike in cases in Malaysia.
No one knows exactly how the ministers got infected. The information has been kept under wraps. To recall from last year’s events, there have been many cases of violations by Ministers and their entourage or family members since the imposition of the Movement Control Order (MCO) in March 2020.
The members of the Perikatan Nasional government have a long history of controversy over the COVID-19, ranging from not observing the standard operation procedures, social distancing, or mask-wearing.
Netizens were furious in Malaysia after some family members of the PN government failed to follow the rules and violated the MCO last year.
A Deputy Minister from the Islamist party PAS created a massive wave of protest on Twitter, Facebook and in WhatsApp groups for violating the MCO.
But what irritated the netizens the most is that some PN members or their family members got away with what Tweeple (people on Twitter) called their ‘insolence’ in disrespecting the rules while the authorities castigated the members of the public for the same violations.
Malaysia’s Plantation, Industries and Commodities Minister Khairuddin Aman Razali was under fire after failing to undergo mandatory quarantine following an overseas trip in July 2020.
On Tuesday, the Malaysian King Al-Sultan Abdullah declared a state of emergency across the country to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Five states – Penang, Selangor, Melaka, Johor and Sabah – and the federal territories of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan are under strict MOC orders. The MCO will last for two weeks until Jan 26.
Malaysia has also banned interstate travel across the country, and people can only travel within 10 km from their residences for shopping or for hospital needs.