Covid-19 round-up: Surge in cases among Sabah returnees

This is a round-up of COVID-19 related matters in Malaysia and globally from Sept 26 up to 12.30 pm today. In Malaysia, case numbers have exceeded 11,000 and globally, the virus has infected more than 34 million people and caused over a million deaths. More than 200 countries and territories are affected by the pandemic.

KUALA LUMPUR – Raging in Sabah and now striking the peninsula – this is the COVID-19 scenario in Malaysia which reported a whopping 260 new cases yesterday, the second-highest number of infections recorded by the nation in a single day since the start of the outbreak.

Out of the new cases, only one was imported and it involved a non-citizen travelling from the United Kingdom.

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Malaysia recorded its highest number of new COVID-19 cases – 277 – on June 4, and third highest (235) on March 26 during the first phase of the Movement Control Order.

As of noon yesterday, Malaysia’s total number of COVID-19 cases had crept up to 11,484 while active cases ballooned to 1,334.

For the record, on Sept 1 the cumulative total of cases stood at 9,354 and active cases 151. And, only 14 new cases were reported that day.

This week, 89 new cases were reported on Wednesday (Sept 30), 101 on Tuesday, 115 on Monday, 150 on Sunday and 82 on Saturday (Sept 26).

At a media conference yesterday, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said out of the 259 locally transmitted cases yesterday, 130 involved Malaysians and 129 non-citizens.

And, out of the 259 cases, 31 had a history of travel to Sabah, bringing the total number of such cases to 119 since Sept 20.

Yesterday, 47 patients were discharged, bringing the total number of recovered cases to 10,014 (87.2 percent of total cases). Twenty patients are being treated in the intensive care unit with three requiring respiratory aid. The death toll remains at 136 (1.18 percent of total cases).

Dr Noor Hisham stressed that efforts to flatten the COVID-19 infection curve will need the cooperation of all the people. “We can make impossible, possible. We have done it before,” he said.

Just recently, he posted the following on his personal Facebook account: “COVID-19 is in our community now. Stay at home if there are no important matters. If you have to go out, make sure you comply with the SOP and MOH’s (Ministry of Health) health advice. Many of us are taking it easy and are complacent, thinking that we are free from the pandemic.”

Active, new clusters

According to Dr Noor Hisham, there are currently 24 clusters in Malaysia while 100 other clusters have ended. The active clusters are in Sabah and Kedah.

Out of yesterday’s 260 new cases, 118 were from Sabah – 74 from the Laut cluster, 10 from Benteng LD cluster, 10 from Bangau-Bangau cluster, one from Bakau cluster, one from Sakong cluster and one from a new cluster, Joo Hwa.

Kedah, meanwhile, accounted for 98 of the new infections, 88 of which were from the Tembok cluster (35 Malaysians and 53 non-citizens). This cluster was announced on Sept 30 and its index cases, a 46-year-old male citizen, was Malaysia’s 135th fatality.

Another three new cases involving Malaysian citizens in Kedah were from a new cluster, Bah Ketil.

The Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur accounted for 13 of the new cases yesterday and 12 of them, all Malaysians, tested positive when they underwent screening upon their return from a high-risk area (Sabah).

Selangor recorded 13 new cases yesterday and nine of them, all Malaysians, comprised Sabah returnees. Three (all Malaysians) were from the new Jalan Meru cluster and one (also a Malaysian) was from another new cluster, Selasih.

Other states that had its share of new cases yesterday were Johor (five), Putrajaya (five), Terengganu (two), Perlis (two), Melaka (1), Pahang (1) and Penang (1).

Measures to check Covid-19

Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob yesterday announced restrictions in inter-district travel in Sabah effective 12.01 am, Oct 3 up to Oct 16.

The travel ban, however, does not apply to those providing essential services such as food supply, as well as medical and security personnel.

As for those who are currently under quarantine, they are allowed to return to their respective districts or to the peninsula, Sarawak and Labuan upon completing their quarantine.

Meanwhile, four districts in Sabah, namely Lahad Datu, Tawau, Kunak and Semporna, have been placed under the administrative Targeted Enhanced Movement Control Order, starting midnight Tuesday (Oct 29) until Oct 12.

RT/R0 still cause for concern

On Wednesday, Dr Noor Hisham reiterated his concern over the rising Rt or R-naught (R0), which is an indicator of how contagious a virus is or how easily it spreads from person to person.

He said the R0 value for Selangor at that juncture had climbed to 1.95, breaching the critical level of 1.6.

He said this was because daily COVID-19 cases reported in Selangor had jumped from two cases on Sept 26 to between 10 and 15 cases a day over the last few days.

In the case of Sabah, although it has over 1,000 active cases, its R0 value has remained stable at 1.26, he pointed out.

Kedah’s R0 value stood at 0.65 as of Sept 30 as it recorded only two new cases over the preceding four days, he added.

Malaysia’s R0 value was 3.55 just before the Movement Control Order was enforced in March. On Aug 4, it registered an R0 value of 0.58, the lowest-ever recorded so far.

Bringing down the R0 value and maintaining it at below 1.0 can help Malaysia in its efforts to break the chain of COVID-19 infections.

Meanwhile, 16 districts in six mukim in Selangor have been categorised as red zones as of Wednesday.

The Selangor COVID-19 Task Force said on its Facebook account yesterday that the districts included Kapar, Klang, Ampang, Cheras, Hulu Langat, Kajang, Semenyih, Bukit Raja, Damansara, Petaling and Sungai Buloh.

It said to date, a total of 2,271 COVID-19 cases and 24 deaths have been reported in Selangor.

Global Covid-19 statistics

According to CoronaTracker (which cites figures from various agencies including WHO), the total number of COVID-19 cases worldwide at the time of writing this article stood at 34,478,930 (32,441,415 cases at the same time last Friday) and 1,027,638 deaths (988,197 last Friday). The total number of recoveries stood at 25,666,624.

The United States continues to head the list of badly-hit nations with 7,494,671 cases (7,185,516 last Friday) and 212,660 deaths (207,538 last week).

India is now on the second spot with 6,391,960 cases and 99,804 deaths.

Brazil is third with 4,849,229 cases and 144,767 fatalities. Russia is fourth with 1,185,231 cases and 20,891 deaths.

Another 34 countries have recorded cases exceeding 100,000, namely:

Colombia 835,339 cases (26,196 deaths), Peru 818,297 (32,535), Spain 778,607 (31,973), Argentina 765,002 (20,288), Mexico 748,315 (78,078), South Africa 676,084 (16,866), France 577,505 (32,019), Chile 464,750 (12,822), Iran 461,044 (26,380), United Kingdom 460,178 (42,202), Iraq 367,474 (9,231), Bangladesh 364,987 (5,272), Saudi Arabia 335,097 (4,794), Turkey 320,070 (8,262), Italy 317,409 (35,918), Philippines 314,079 (5,562), Pakistan 312,806 (6,484), Germany 295,530 (9,586), Indonesia 291,182 (10,856), Israel 253,490 (1,622), Ukraine 213,028 (4,193), Canada 160,535 (9,319), Equador 138,584 (11,433), Bolivia 135,716 (8,001), Romania 129,658 (4,862), Morocco 126,044 (2,229), Qatar 125,959 (214), Holland 124,097 (6,419), Belgium 121,059 (10,023), Panama 113,342 (2,387), Dominican Republic 112,728 (2,108 Kazakhstan 108,044 (1,725), Kuwait 105,676 (612) and Egypt 103,317 (5,946).

China, where the outbreak was first reported at end-December 2019, is now on the 43rd spot with 85,424 cases while its death toll remains at 4,634.

In Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Indonesia have joined the countries with more than 100,000 cases. Next is Singapore with 57,784 cases while its death tally remains at 27, followed by Myanmar with 14,383 cases and 321 deaths. Last week at this time, Myanmar reported 8,515 cases and 133 deaths.

Thailand has recorded 3,569 cases while its death toll remains at 59, followed by Vietnam with 1,095 cases and 35 deaths.

Cambodia’s cases rose to 278 and its death tally remains zero. Also unchanged are Brunei’s tally at 141 cases and two deaths and Laos’ 23 cases and zero fatality.

Covid-19 background

According to the WHO website, its China country office was informed of cases of pneumonia that were detected in Wuhan on Dec 31, 2019. On Jan 7, the Chinese authorities confirmed that the novel coronavirus can be transmitted from human to human.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-COV).

A study of the virus’ genetic sequence suggested similarities to that seen in snakes and bats. China health officials identified the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan as the source of the transmission of the coronavirus.

On Feb 11, WHO announced the official name of the virus, COVID-19, which is an acronym for coronavirus 2019 – CO stands for corona, VI for virus and D for disease.

On Jan 30, WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak as a global emergency. By then, it had spread to 18 countries and caused 170 deaths. On March 11, COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by WHO.

WHO has described the COVID-19 outbreak as 10 times more dangerous than the A H1N1 Influenza, also known as Swine Flu.

Swine Flu, which occurred between January 2009 and August 2010, infected more than 1.6 million people and caused 18,449 fatalities.

The International Monetary Fund has warned that the global economic recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will be worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s.

— BERNAMA