Dr Noor Hisham: Crowded lockup to blame for rapid spread of Benteng Lahad Datu cluster

Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the source of the cluster was traced back to the arrests of two undocumented migrants who were then held in police custody at the Lahad Datu police headquarters on August 24. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the source of the cluster was traced back to the arrests of two undocumented migrants who were then held in police custody at the Lahad Datu police headquarters on August 24. — Picture by Choo Choy May

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KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 7 — The new Benteng Lahad Datu Covid-19 cluster in Sabah emerged due to the cramped and crowded condition of lockups that allowed infections to spread rapidly, the Health Ministry said today.

Earlier today, Malaysia recorded a massive jump in new Covid-19 cases today, with 62 cases, of which 50 were from the aforementioned cluster that first emerged on September 1.  

Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the source of the cluster was traced back to the arrests of two undocumented migrants who were then held in police custody at the Lahad Datu police headquarters on August 24.

Both inmates tested positive for Covid-19 on August 31 and were admitted to Lahad Datu Hospital for treatment.

“Based on the risk analysis performed, the transmission of Covid-19 for this cluster was due to the cramped and crowded lockup quarters.

“It was found that physical distancing was also hard to implement. This is the main factor contributing to Covid-19 infections among inmates,” he said in a statement here.

Dr Noor Hisham reiterated the importance of complying with the standard operation procedures, adding that they must be practised at all times regardless of place.

With a total of 66 positive cases from the cluster registered thus far, Dr Noor Hisham said 64 of them involved inmates while two more involved a prison guard and his nephew.

After the first index case was reported, Dr Noor Hisham said 1,404 people have been screened through the ministry’s active case detection and close contact screening measures.

“A total of 631 inmates, 98 prison staff, 157 family members, 78 police officers and 440 government agency officers have been screened with a positivity rate of 4.7 per cent,” he said.

The cluster involved two districts of Lahad Datu and Tawau in Sabah, of which 30 Malaysians and 36 non-Malaysians have so far tested positive.

In Lahad Datu, 420 people have been screened with 337 testing negative and 33 awaiting their results.

In Tawau, 984 people have been screened with 230 testing negative and 738 awaiting their results.

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