KUALA LUMPUR, July 31 — Today, seven out of the 12 new cases reported comprised local transmissions while the Covid-19 death tally rose to 125 as one death was reported.
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a media statement today that the seven local transmissions involved five Malaysians and two non-citizens.
Two of the Malaysians belonged to the Sivagangga PUI (patients under investigation) cluster that was first reported by the Ministry of Health (MOH) on July 28. The index case of this cluster, who is said to have violated the quarantine rules, is the owner of a restaurant in Kedah and a permanent resident who returned from India on July 28.
As of July 28, five close contacts of the index case were screened and tested positive. Four of them, all non-citizens, were his restaurant workers while the fifth person was a member of his family.
The remaining five new cases reported today were imported, involving two Malaysians and three non-citizens. The imported cases were from Indonesia (three cases: one in Kuala Lumpur, one in Johor and one in Sarawak); Qatar (one case in Kuala Lumpur); and the United Kingdom (one case in Kuala Lumpur).
With the 12 new cases reported today, Malaysia’s total Covid-19 cases now stood at 8,976 and active cases 207.
Another 27 Covid-19 patients were discharged over the 24-hour period up to noon today, bringing the cumulative total of recovered cases to 8,644 (96.3 per cent of total cases). Currently, three patients are undergoing treatment at the intensive care unit with one of them requiring respiratory aid.
On the fatality reported today, Dr Noor Hisham said the patient was a 64-year-old Filipino who also had heart disease.
Concern over formation of new clusters
Double-digit new cases involving local transmissions, as well as new clusters have continued to emerge this week, much to the consternation of the health authorities that expected Malaysia to record zero new Covid-19 cases by mid-July.
On Monday (July 27), Dr Noor Hisham warned of a third wave of Covid-19 infections in this country if the people continue to disregard the standard operating procedures (SOPs) set by the government to stem transmissions.
Out of the 39 new cases recorded on Tuesday, 28 were local transmissions — the highest ever reported since June 15.
On Saturday (July 25), 17 out of the 23 new cases reported involved local transmissions and Sunday, 10 out of 13 new cases. Single-digit local infections were reported on Monday (three out of seven new cases); Wednesday (five out of 13 new cases); and yesterday (five out of eight new cases).
Malaysia managed to record zero local transmissions on three days this month — July 1, 8 and 9.
Dr Noor Hisham has also appealed to the public to comply with SOPs such as wearing a mask and observing social distancing.
“The new clusters are like embers, and if we don’t comply with the SOP, it’s like we are the fuel. So, when fuel mixes with embers it will cause a huge blaze and a sudden spike in cases,” he said at a Covid-19 media briefing on Monday.
In view of the rising new cases in Malaysia, the government has made it mandatory for people to wear a mask when using public transport and in congested public places beginning tomorrow (Aug 1).
Effective July 24, individuals (both citizens and non-citizens) returning from overseas must undergo 14-day quarantine at quarantine centres designated by the government.
This week’s new clusters, as announced by the Ministry of Health, are as follows:
Saturday (July 25) — Bukit Tiram cluster involving a religious centre at Taman Bukit Tiram, Johor; and Kuching construction company cluster.
Tuesday (July 28) — Sivagangga PUI (patients under investigation) cluster in Kedah and Satok cluster in Kuching, Sarawak.
Yesterday, Dr Noor Hisham said there are still 24 active clusters in the country but none of them recorded new cases yesterday. Among the active clusters are Mambong cluster and Sentosa cluster, both in Sarawak.
In the meantime, the Bukit Bintang cluster, which involved Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, has ended. It recorded 11 positive cases comprising 10 non-citizens and a Malaysian. It did not record any fatality.
At a press conference last week, Dr Noor Hisham had said that the R-naught — the reproductive number which is an indicator of how contagious a disease is, or how easily it spreads from person to person — has increased from 0.3 during the movement control order to 1.36 now.
He said if it rises to 1.6, Malaysia will see a sudden spike in Covid-19 cases.
WHO and global situation
Yesterday marked six months since the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Covid-19 a public health emergency of international concern.
WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, speaking at his weekly Covid-19 media briefing in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday, said it was the sixth time a global health emergency was declared under the International Health Regulations, “but it is easily the most severe”.
Health emergencies announced by WHO previously include H1N1 (2009), Polio and Ebola in South Africa (2014), Zika (2016) and Ebola in the Congo Republic (2019).
“When I declared a public health emergency of international concern on January 30 — the highest level of alarm under international law — there were less than 100 cases outside of China, and no deaths. Over the last six weeks alone, the total number of cases has increased two-fold,” he said.
Dr Tedros said as required under the International Health Regulations, he will reconvene the Emergency Committee later this week to re-evaluate the pandemic.
“Covid-19 has changed our world. It has brought people, communities and nations together, and driven them apart,” he said.
Covid-19 global 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 17,499,767 (15,673,511 cases last Friday) and 677,185 deaths (636,848 last Friday). The total number of recoveries stood at 10,937,771.
The United States continues to head the list of badly-hit nations with 4,634,985 cases (4,169,991 cases at this time last week) and 155,285 fatalities.
Brazil is on the second spot with 2,613,789 cases and 91,377 fatalities. India is on the third spot with 1,639,350 cases and 35,786 deaths. Russia is fourth with 834,499 cases and 13,802 deaths.
Another 20 countries have recorded cases exceeding 100,000, namely:
South Africa 482,169 cases (7,812 deaths), Mexico 416,179 (46,000), Peru 407,492 (19,021), Chile 353,536 (9,377), Spain 332,510 (28,443), United Kingdom 302,301 (45,999), Iran 301,530 (16,569), Pakistan 277,402 (5,924), Colombia 286,020 (9,810), Saudi Arabia 277,042 (2,842), Italy 247,158 (35,132), Bangladesh 234,889 (3,083), Turkey 229,891 (5,674), Germany 209,663 (9,221), France 186,573 (30,254), Argentina 185,373 (3,441), Iraq 121,263 (4,671), Canada 115,799 kes (8,929), Qatar 110,460 (171) and Indonesia 108,376 (5,131).
China, where the outbreak was first reported at end-December 2019, is now on the 28th spot with 84,292 cases and 4,634 deaths.
In South-east Asia, Indonesia, which has joined the top 24 countries with more than 100,000 cases, heads the list with 108,376 cases and 5,131 deaths. The Philippines is next with 89,374 cases and 1,983 deaths. Singapore has recorded 51,809 cases while its death tally remains at 27. Thailand has 3,304 cases and 58 deaths.
Vietnam’s Covid-19 cases have risen to 509 and so far it has not recorded any fatality. Myanmar now has 353 cases and six deaths. Brunei’s tally remains at 141 cases and two deaths, and Laos 20 cases and no death.
According to the WHO website, its China country office was informed of cases of pneumonia that were detected in Wuhan on December 31, 2019. On January 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 February 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 January 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.
Translated by Rema Nambiar. — Bernama.