Dr Noor Hisham: New Covid-19 cluster at KL construction site; cramped worker lodgings possible cause

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah speaks during a press conference on Covid-19 in Putrajaya May 25, 2020. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah speaks during a press conference on Covid-19 in Putrajaya May 25, 2020. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, May 25 — A construction site in Kuala Lumpur is the latest cluster of Covid-19 cases in Malaysia, with 44 positive cases detected there alone, Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said today.

With the addition of this construction site cluster, there are now a total of three Covid-19 clusters at construction sites in Malaysia, namely the Kuala Lumpur construction site cluster, the Setia Alam construction cluster, and today’s latest Kuala Lumpur 2 construction site cluster.

When asked about the detection of Covid-19 cases at construction sites and whether this indicated that construction companies had failed to comply with standard operating procedures (SOPs), Dr Noor Hisham suggested that companies and employers in general may have only focused on workplace conditions when living conditions for their migrant workers are also important.

“About screenings with positive detections from construction sites, so if we look at construction sites, from our study, there is a high possibility that foreign workers who work at construction sites, they live in closed and confined spaces. We feel that is the main factor for how infections can spread among foreign workers at construction sites,” he said in a press conference this evening.

“If we see, the SOPs for construction sites already exist, but they only look at the construction sites or factories or the workplace, but what’s important is we have to look at their lodgings, how is their house, how do they live?

“We were made to understand for example, in Masjid India, in one small apartment — 30 people live there in one apartment. So confined spaces are one of the factors why Covid-19 can spread. So we have to look at other factors among foreign workers.

“So we believe confined spaces, crowded spaces are important factors that we have to look at. Today we don’t have a vaccine, but the vaccine that we have is social distancing, safe distancing,” he added.

Status as of today

As of today, the Setia Alam construction site in the Petaling district in Selangor had recorded 13 foreigners who tested positive for Covid-19 with 12 discharged and one remaining active case.

For the Kuala Lumpur construction site cluster in the Titiwangsa district, 31 cases tested positive including 28 who had been discharged and three who are still under treatment as of today.

As for the Kuala Lumpur 2 construction site cluster in the Lembah Pantai district which was announced today, 44 cases had been detected including 43 foreigners and one Malaysian, with all categorised as active cases.

Dr Noor Hisham also suggested today that confined spaces at immigration depots could be the cause of the new Covid-19 clusters, with a total of 227 cases — including an administrative officer while the rest were detainees — detected at the three immigration depot clusters identified as of today.

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