KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 1 — When a small outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was first reported in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province, China, on December 31, last year, nobody expected it to cause a public health emergency of international concern or PHEIC.
In just a month, the new strain of coronavirus had infected over 11,000 people in 24 countries, with 213 deaths reported in China alone. No death was reported outside the republic.
World Health Organisation (WHO) director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus declared the 2019-nCoV situation as a PHEIC at a press conference in Geneva on Thursday, saying that the greatest concern now is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems and which are ill-prepared to deal with it.
Malaysia, which has also recorded eight imported cases of infection caused by the 2019-nCoV involving Chinese nationals, has also taken various proactive measures to prevent the spread of the virus which causes pneumonia and symptoms such as fever, cough and breathing difficulties, in the country.
“Malaysia welcomes the (WHO’s) declaration and has been on high alert and strengthening the surveillance in all of our international entry points even before the PHEIC was announced,” Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said.
As at noon today, the number of confirmed cases of the 2019-nCoV in Malaysia remained at eight, while the cumulative number of patients under investigation (PUI) for coronavirus infection is 142, with six awaiting laboratory test results.
The number of individuals who have had close contact with coronavirus positive cases remains at 32, he said, adding that the patient who was reported to have fled from hospital while waiting for laboratory test results, had been picked up and confirmed negative for 2019-nCoV.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad in a statement today also said that Malaysia is leading the Asean Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) network and actively engaging with the Asean member states on 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) situation updates and data sharing to promote detection response and communication to prevent the spread of the virus.
“We (Malaysia) are on top and in control of all these things,” he stressed.
Four of the eight Chinese nationals tested positive for 2019-nCoV in Malaysia are receiving treatment at Sungai Buloh Hospital, three at Permai Hospital in Johor, and one in Sultanah Maliha Hospital in Langkawi. All of them are reported stable and recovering well.
The government’s proactive action in tackling the health issue also involved the evacuation of Malaysian citizens from Wuhan.
According to Malaysian Ambassador to China, Raja Datuk Nushirwan Zainal Abidin, discussions with China regarding the evacuation of Malaysians were going well and those involved were expected to return on commercial flights soon.
He said the Malaysian Embassy in Beijing had also sent an advance team to Wuhan to coordinate and assist in the process of bringing back 120 Malaysians in Hubei province.
“The team will locate and update the list of Malaysians there for the purpose of repatriation later,” he said.
The government’s quick action in preventing the spread of the coronavirus infection in the country had also received praise from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah.
His Majesty said the government, however, has to continuously undertake precautionary measures, not compromising on issues affecting the well-being of the people and the country.
Al-Sultan Abdullah also reminded the people to cooperate with the government in implementing preventive measures to stop the coronavirus from spreading further. — Bernama