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USM PENANG, 27 May 2020 – While many are still in the festive mood and celebrating Aidilfitri with their families, members of the staff from the respective departments of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), led by the COVID-19 Nerve Centre, came together to strategise and coordinate the sending off of another 149 Sabah-bound students back to their home state.


A total of 5 buses and 7 vans were provided by USM to ferry the students to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), where they boarded a flight to Kota Kinabalu this afternoon.

This was the last batch of students to be sent back to their home state (Sabah), following suit another batch of 122 Sabahan students who took an earlier flight, also from KLIA, yesterday.  

According to the USM COVID-19 Nerve Centre head, Zulkifli Che Hussin, the Sabahan students were the last batch to be sent home from the USM main campus in a series of operations to send students back to their hometowns which began on 29 April 2020, in response to the government’s announcement on 24 April 2020 to allow university students stranded in campuses nationwide to return to their hometowns during the extended MCO. 

“They could not leave earlier (before the Raya holidays) due to flight unavailability, even though numerous efforts were made to arrange flights with the domestic airlines.

“Finally there were a couple of available flights on the third and fourth day of Raya, and we were very thankful for that, even though departure was from KLIA and not the Penang International Airport (PIA), which required the university to arrange for transportation to send them to KLIA,” he said, while adding that the Sabahan students had the opportunity to celebrate Aidilfitri on campus with the USM Vice-Chancellor, USM Deputy Vice-Chancellor Student Development Affairs & Alumni, and the university staff.


Zulkifli, who is fondly known as Abe Yoh by the campus community, added that he was glad that the entire process of sending these last two batches of students in USM buses and vans went smoothly and was conducted in compliance with strict SOPs, with the students being provided with face masks and food as well as observing social distancing. 

All of them have also undergone swab test screenings for COVID-19 on 20 and 21 May at Pusat Sejahtera USM, with the assistance from the Ministry of Health (MOH) personnel.

“Alhamdulillah, the result showed all the 271 students were negative and they are safe to return home,” he added.

The University hopes that they will spend quality time with their family members especially during the Aidilfitri and Kaamatan festivals, as well as to stay safe and continue with their online classes at home.

The University also deeply appreciates the tireless efforts put in by the entire team – Nerve Centre, Division of Student Development Affairs & Alumni (BHEPA), Pusat Sejahtera, Security Department, Housing and Accommodation Centre (HAC), Islamic Centre, Occupational Safety & Health Unit (UKKP), Department of Development & Asset Management and Student Representative Council (MPP) – in facilitating the successful operation of sending the students back to their hometowns nationwide. 


Our gratitude also goes out to the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM), Fire and Rescue Department of Malaysia, Police Undergraduate Voluntary Corps (SUKSIS), People's Volunteer Corps (RELA), State Health Department and other related government agencies for lending their wholehearted support throughout the exercise.

Text: Tan Ewe Hoe/Photo: Ebrahim Abdul Manan

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