The government will enhance Ops Benteng implementation at the east coast of Sabah by increasing security forces personnel and assets, following increase in the number of COVID-19 cases due to influx of illegal immigrants in the state.

Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the special National Security Council (NSC) meeting on COVID-19 today has agreed to further strengthen control in Sabah east coast areas such as in Tawau, Semporna and Lahad Datu.

The additional assets and personnel will involve the Malaysian Armed Forces, the Royal Malaysia Police and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.

Ismail Sabri said the move was necessary as the east coast of Sabah is wide and covers a long stretch with several islands that could be used as the illegals’ transit points.

“Those detained in Ops Benteng, whether they are illegal immigrants or have travel documents, will still be quarantined for 14 days at the designated centres,” he told a press conference here, today.

As for inter-district controls throughout the state, several standard operating procedures (SOPs) would be established for restaurants, shops or food stalls, grocery and convenience stores which would be allowed to operate from 6 am to 8 pm.

“Petrol station operating hours are between 6 am to 8 pm; daily market operations from 6 am to 2 pm and night markets, farmers’ markets, tamu and wholesale markets are allowed to operate but must comply with the existing SOPs,” he said.

For taxi, e-hailing and food delivery services, they are allowed to operate from 6 am to 8 pm.

He said in the meeting today, it was also decided that the operating hours for entry at the Sultan Iskandar Building Complex in Johor Bahru would remain from 7 am to 7 pm for all vehicles.

Apart from that, he said, the Sultan Abu Bakar Complex or Second Link, in Senai would operate 24hours for heavy vehicles while for light vehicles the operating hours would be from 8am to 12 pm.

On the standard operating procedure (SOP) for ship crewmen, he said crew members who signed on (commencing duty) are required to take the swab test.

“If it is negative, they would be quarantined for 14 days and if positive they would be sent to the hospital for treatment,” he said.

As for crewmen who have signed off (completed duty), he said if their ship is in Malaysian waters for more than 14 days, they would only need to undergo swab test without quarantine.

“However, they would be escorted from the ship to the airport to return to their respective countries,” he said.

Nonetheless, he said if the ship is on its way to another destination and had called at the ports of other countries before arriving in Malaysia, crewmen signing off, would be required to undergo the swab test as well as the 14-day quarantine.

Ismail Sabri said the special meeting today also decided that only leaders of ministerial status and above would be allowed to enter the country on official matters by complying with the SOP set by the government.

“Among them, all delegates including the head of delegation would be required to take swab test three days before arriving at the airport and upon arrival they would once again be required to take the second swab test,” he said.

Apart from that, he said the presence of delegation was only for official event not involving many people and they would be escorted on arrival from airport to the hotel and to the event venue and to the airport again to return to their country of origin and all delegates are only allowed to go through private aircraft.

For national leaders who need to go overseas for official matters on national interest, Ismail Sabri said the meeting agreed to allow them on condition that when they return they need to undergo the 14-day quarantine and nobody is exempted from the requirement.