PUTRAJAYA – Following the emergence of the Benteng Lahad Datu cluster in Sabah due to detainees testing positive of the COVID-19 virus in police lock-ups and prisons, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has recommended that the authorities segregate old and new detainees.
Health director-general (DG) Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said this was important to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus on a large scale among the inmates.
Although new inmates may not show symptoms of infection such as fever and cough, or the results of the Reverse Transcriptase – Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test they undergo are negative, they should not be placed in the same cell or place as the old detainee.
“The incubation period of the virus is for 14 days…so after the expiration of that period, detainees can be placed together if they have been confirmed free from COVID-19,” he said at a press conference on the development of COVID-19 here, Sept 10.
The Benteng Lahad Datu cluster started when two illegal immigrants, detained at the Lahad Datu district police headquarters were found to be positive for COVID-19 and to date, 170 positive cases have been detected in the cluster.
Meanwhile, Dr Noor Hisham said the MOH had not yet identified the cause of the index case infection in the Sungai and Telaga clusters but was conducting an investigation if there was any connection between the two clusters as it involved health workers.
“So far, we have not been able to look at the data to make any link between the two clusters, but if we look at the way this virus spreads, the probability of infection is very high.
‘’So we think, maybe, that the virus that has infected both clusters has something to do with the Tawar cluster and persons under investigation (PUI) Sivagangga cluster. The Medical Research Institute laboratory is conducting tests to look at the genotype of the virus,” he said.
Meanwhile, Dr Noor Hisham also said the MOH was still monitoring former COVID-19 patients every three months to see their antibody response and long-term effects such as blood clots in blood vessels.
‘’Among our concerns is pulmonary fibrosis, which is a COVID-19 infection that causes pneumonia which when healed has scars in the lungs that may affect breathing.
“However, there have been no reports of the problem and so far it is too early for us to look at long-term complications,” he said, adding that if there was a blood clot in any organ, it would affect the function of the organ.
Meanwhile, when asked if there were cases of retinal arteries (blood clots in the eyelids) among former COVID-19 patients in Malaysia, he said such cases had occurred abroad but had not occurred here.