Health D-G: Ministry mulling targeted mass screening in Sabah’s Lahad Datu, Kunak and Tawau following emergence of several Covid-19 clusters

Health workers in protective suits are seen conducting Covid-19 testing in Kuala Lumpur April 12, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Health workers in protective suits are seen conducting Covid-19 testing in Kuala Lumpur April 12, 2020. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 15 — The Health Ministry said today it was mulling the mass screening of targeted groups in Lahad Datu, Kunak and Tawau in Sabah following the emergence of three new Covid-19 clusters in recent weeks.

Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said such measures would however depend on the pending test results of some 2,000 individuals and the effectiveness of strict border control.

“We anticipate in the next couple of days and weeks we will screen the communities in Lahad Datu, Kunak and Tawau. Perhaps 15,000 to 20,000 people. We are ready to do a mass screening in the respective areas, meaning we have identified the area or kampung, etc.

“Screening will be based on locality. If the locality is high in terms of positive cases, then we will consider taking action in terms of (imposing) an enhanced movement control order (EMCO).

“So action is being done. We hope to increase our public health intervention in the next couple of days,” he said during his bi-weekly press briefing here.

Dr Noor Hisham had earlier cited how the two major Covid-19 clusters in Sabah — namely the Benteng LD cluster and Tawau cluster — emerged due to the mixing of detainees comprising undocumented migrants in police lockups and prison.

Coupled with confined spaces and delays in screening, infections among detainees rose significantly, with some 424 people, mostly detainees, testing positive to date.

Earlier today, Dr Noor Hisham confirmed that the Benteng LD cluster registered four new cases and the emergence of a new cluster in Kunak, Sabah within the Tawau district.

Dubbed the Pulau cluster, he said a total of nine individuals have tested positive for Covid-19 so far.

He also reminded the public and frontliners to comply with the standard operating procedures such as physical distancing, wearing of face masks and frequent hand-washing.

“As everyone knows, the virus is already in our society. What we must do is to avoid getting infected. We are also relying on the people in Tawau, Lahad Datu and Kunak to obey the SOP.

“Avoid going out if you don’t have to. And if you are outside, ensure physical distancing, a face mask is worn and frequent hand-washing,” he said.

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