KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 10 — The government has released standard operating procedures (SOPs) for official ministerial visits abroad, amid continued backlash over an order exempting ministers from the 10-day Covid-19 quarantine upon their return.

The Health Ministry shared the SOPs on its official Facebook page and said these were sourced from Wisma Putra, the metonym for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The SOPs stipulated that travels must be for official business and schedules must be short, with only a small delegation of those who have not had close contact with Covid-19 patients and have tested negative two days prior to the travel date allowed to accompany the ministers.

The SOPs further explained that ministers must use private government aircraft to travel — not commercial aircraft — to create a “travel bubble”.

Upon arrival at the destination airport, ministers must again be tested for Covid-19, with only those testing negative allowed to continue on to their accommodations.

 Ministers will also not be allowed to move around once arriving at their destination country and must be confined in their rooms unless for official reasons.

Ministers must also wear masks at all times outside of their accommodation, as well as refrain from any form of physical contact throughout their visit.

Yesterday, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said that only ministers who take private flights and not make any public appearances will be allowed to undergo observation for three days as stipulated by a new rule.

He said those using regular commercial flights will have to undergo quarantine like everyone else.

“They will have to adhere to the procedures and only then approval is given.

“Before leaving, they (ministers) will have to present it to the Cabinet,” he said on the new rule that allows ministers to bypass the 10-day quarantine.

Dr Noor Hisham added that once ministers are given the green light, the health ministry will look at the SOPs and review their travel itinerary.

“If they do not comply with the SOPs, the ministers will have to be quarantined for 10 days,” Noor Hisham added.

On Monday, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba issued an order exempting ministers returning after official trips abroad from serving the mandatory 10-day quarantine for Covid-19 prevention.

Instead, they would undergo just three days of observation.

Critics such as former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said such a move was dangerous as it could allow ministers to be prematurely cleared of Covid-19 or import new variants into the country.