Health Ministry confirms three cases of coronavirus infection in Malaysia

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad (second right) speaks during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur January 25, 2020. — Picture via Twitter/KKMPutrajaya
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad (second right) speaks during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur January 25, 2020. — Picture via Twitter/KKMPutrajaya

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 25 — The Ministry of Health confirmed that three Chinese nationals in Malaysia have tested positive for the novel coronavirus or nCoV today. 

The ministry was informed by their counterparts in Singapore that a family of five consisting of a man and wife, their son, daughter-in-law and two children aged two and 11 were travelling into Malaysia through Johor.

The 66-year-old man and his son had originally contracted the coronavirus.

Those who have been confirmed to have contracted the virus are the two children and their grandfather, and they have now been quarantined at the Sungai Buloh Hospital for further treatment.

The family were travelling from Guangzhou to Singapore on January 20 where upon arriving in Singapore the grandfather and son were confirmed positive for nCoV. The family were not travelling alone however, as they were travelling with another four close family friends.

The four were also tested for “contact symptoms” but came back negative and have returned to China this morning.

“I want to thank our counterparts in Singapore for being very tactful and considerate when informing us about potential coronavirus carriers.

“Right now we have the grandfather and the two young kids in isolation and observation ward in Sungai Buloh and the mother of the children requested to stay with the kids and we’re allowing her to,” said health minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad

“As such it’s now four Chinese nationals in quarantine and as far as we know they are all from Wuhan.”

Dzuklefly said there will now be continuous monitoring of all these patients and the Health Ministry and the Home Ministry are working on a plan to safeguard Malaysian’s from more exposure to the deadly virus that’s killed 41 people and infected at least 1,287.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) acknowledged that the respiratory illness is an emergency in China, but said it is too early to declare it a global one.

When asked if Malaysia will act independently of the world body in declaring it a pandemic, health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said: “We have been advised by WHO, who have formed a committee to look into this, we are following it closely but the decision is made by WHO.

“At the moment the committee decided not to announce it as a global pandemic. The plan is for the respective member states to take action. China has done it by quarantining cities and transport for 40 million people. On our side flights to Wuhan have been cancelled so we have done some things and closely following what China is doing.”

Dzulkefly said as the next step is the conduct stricter surveillance on people coming into Malaysia. He said a patient screening will be done more intently at all medical outlets and medical personnel are taking precautions not to get infected as well.

He said the ministry has sent a circular to medical practitioners on how to take precautionary steps and are told to wear personal protection equipment on themselves at all times to be safe.

“This steps or procedures we have sent to all medical practitioners will beused as a guide on how to detect someone with the corona virus and how to handle them,” said Dzulkefly.

Dzulkefly when asked if he had received or will receive any additional funds to handle an outbreak because yesterday, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said it will work with the Health Ministry on development funding to face health emergencies, amid a coronavirus outbreak from China.

Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali said his ministry approved last year the establishment of the National Centre for Disease Control (CDC) at a cost of RM500 million to prevent and control diseases, investigate outbreaks and public health threats.

The project is expected to be completed by 2023.

Dzulkefly said he has personal assurances from Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng that if he needs funds he can get them from the Finance Ministry.

“I will follow up with them (Ministry of Economic Affairs) but to be honest with you, I have personal commitment from the finance minister, particularly in handling these influenza-like illnesses,” said Dzuklefly.

“He directly told me at the last Cabinet (meeting) if I’m in need of any funding I can immediately contact him as these are serious matters,” he added.

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