Covid-19 weekly round-up: Threat of fourth wave looms large for Malaysia

Members of the public throng the Kampung Baru Ramadan bazaar in Kuala Lumpur April 14, 2021. ― Picture by Hari Anggara
Members of the public throng the Kampung Baru Ramadan bazaar in Kuala Lumpur April 14, 2021. ― Picture by Hari Anggara

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KUALA LUMPUR, April 16 — Was yesterday’s sharp hike in new Covid-19 cases an indication of an imminent “fourth wave”?

Just a few days ago, Senior Minister (Security) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob and Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba had expressed their concern over the probability of a resurgence of infections.

Daily new cases reported over the week under review (April 10 to 16) exceeded 1,500 a number of times while active cases have climbed past 15,000.

The R-naught (R0/Rt) value or infectivity rate of the coronavirus stood at 1.17 nationwide throughout the week. An R0 value of 0.5 would be needed to flatten the infection curve.

In the meantime, the nation continued to record new clusters linked to the workplace and community. Yesterday alone, nine workplace and six community clusters were announced by the Ministry of Health (MoH).

As of yesterday, Malaysia has been grappling with 346 active clusters with 73 of them contributing to new cases.

Worried about the developments on the Covid-19 front, Dr Adham said MOH has “recommended” that interstate travel to enable Muslims to celebrate Aidilfitri (scheduled to fall on May 13) be postponed.

If the recommendation is enforced, the annual balik kampung exodus will be cancelled for the second year running.

The daily breakdown of new cases over the week is as follows: 1,510 (April 10); 1,739 (April 11); 1,317 (April 12); 1,767 (April 13); 1,889 (April 14); and 2,148 (April 15).

Meanwhile, with yesterday’s 2,148 new cases, Malaysia’s cumulative total of Covid-19 cases now stood at 367,977 and active cases 15,509.

The last time Malaysia recorded over 2,000 daily new cases was about six weeks ago on March 4 (2,063 cases). On that day, active cases stood at 23,161.

The third wave of infections struck Malaysia on Sept 20, 2020, when the nation first started recording four-digit daily cases.

With its 367,977 cases, Malaysia is at the 45th spot in the list of 216 countries affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Just ahead of Malaysia is Slovakia (373,950 cases), Bulgaria (382,761) and Saudi Arabia (402,142).

Yesterday, 1,259 patients were discharged from hospital, bringing the total number of recoveries to 349,038 (94.9 percent of total Covid-19 cases).

The daily breakdown of recovered cases over the week is as follows: 1,248 (April 10); 1,216 (April 11); 1,052 (April 12); 1,290 (April 13); 1,485 (April 14); and 1,259 (April 15).

UK B.1.1.7 variant

Health director-general Tan Sri Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a media statement yesterday that two more Covid-19 cases caused by the UK B.1.1.7 variant have been detected in the country, bringing the total number of such cases to five so far.

The two latest cases involved Malaysians who had a history of travel to Poland in March this year. Both were tested positive for Covid-19 on March 30.

According to Dr Noor Hisham, Covid-19 variants of concern have been detected in Malaysia since Feb 3. The first two cases, involving the UK B.1.1.7 variant, were detected through screening at an international entry point. Another two cases, involving the Nigerian B.1.525 variant, were detected on March 5.

On March 18, the South African B.1.351 variant was found on two employees of a company based at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, as well as on two others, one from the Jalan Lima cluster and one from a close contact screening.

To detect the spread of the B.1.351 variant, Dr Noor Hisham said genomic sequencing was carried out on cases in the nearby geographical areas including Kuala Langat and Sepang districts.

As of April 14, a total of 17 locally transmitted cases linked to the South African B.1.351 variant have been recorded in Malaysia.

These cases have been found in the Jalan Lima cluster (three), Kebun Baru cluster (nine), Teknologi Emas (one) and screening of close contacts (four).

Dr Noor Hisham warned that the UK B.1.1.7 and South African B.1.351 variants can spread faster and that scientific research is still being carried out to study the symptoms and effects of their infections.

Clusters on the increase

As of yesterday, Malaysia has recorded a total of 1,500 clusters, out of which 1,154 have ended. Active clusters stood at 346 with 73 of them reporting new cases.

The three clusters that reported substantial numbers of new cases yesterday were Jalan Kempas Satu cluster (81), Abak Bon cluster (77) and Telok Mas (45).

Yesterday, 15 new clusters were announced, nine of them related to the workplace and six to the community.

Four of the workplace clusters were in Kelantan, two in Selangor, two in Sabah and one in Kuala Lumpur.

Kelantan’s four workplace clusters, involving education centres, were the Kampung Bunut Sarang Burung cluster (50 cases), Kampung Domis cluster (40 cases), Kampung Labok cluster (nine cases) and Kok Lanas cluster (nine cases).

The six community clusters, meanwhile, comprise two in Sabah and one each in Kelantan, Johor, Terengganu and Kedah.

Otther Covid-19 developments

 As for the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme, the following number of people has been administered the first and second (within brackets) doses of the vaccine in the various states as of April 14:

Perlis 11,364 (9,473); Kedah 42,632 (25,988); Penang 39,502 (30,993); Perak  53,092 (30,992); Selangor 90,267 (59,657); Kuala Lumpur 67,671 (36,648); Putrajaya 7,449 (4,557); Negri Sembilan 32,786 (20,655); Melaka 19,080 (10,731); Kelantan 32,117 (19,107); Terengganu 30,420 (20,103); Pahang 41,328 (32,852); Johor 59,842 (29,607); Sabah 55,349 (42,649); Labuan 3,332 (2,319); and Sarawak 67,300 (32,728).

A total of 1,078,6951 people have received the vaccine so far (first dose 653,531 and second dose 425,164).

As of April 15, a total of 8,843,823 individuals aged above 18 have registered to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

Meanwhile, Dr Noor Hisham wrote on his personal Facebook account yesterday that the R0 value remained at 1.17 nationwide as of yesterday. Terengganu registered the highest R0 value at 1.49, followed by Kelantan 1.35 and Putrajaya 1.25.  

The conditional movement control order (CMCO) has been extended to April 28 in Selangor, Johor, Kuala Lumpur and Penang (April 1-14). Sarawak’s CMCO has been extended to April 26.

In Kelantan, seven districts (Kota Bharu, Pasir Mas, Pasir Puteh, Bachok, Machang, Tumpat and Tanah Merah) have been placed under the Movement Control Order from April 16 to 29.

Kedah, Perak, Pahang, Terengganu, Negeri Sembilan, Perlis, Putrajaya, Labuan, Sabah and Melaka will remain under Recovery MCO until April 28.

Malaysia is under emergency ule starting Jan 12 up to August this year.

 Covid-19 case details

 Yesterday, Sarawak accounted for the highest number of the new cases reported nationwide at 512, followed by Selangor (459),  Kelantan (221), Sabah (202), Johor (182), Kuala Lumpur (171) and Penang (134).

Terengganu reported 57 cases; Melaka (53); Perak (51); Negeri Sembilan (34); Pahang (34); and Kedah (26). Putrajaya reported eight cases, Labuan three and Perlis one.

In Sarawak, out of the 512 new cases reported yesterday, 420 were from existing clusters and screening of close contacts. In Selangor, 264 out of the 459 new cases were from the screening of close contacts.

In Kelantan, 90 of its new cases were from existing clusters and 70 from the five new clusters recorded yesterday.

Meanwhile, 10 fatalities were reported yesterday, bringing Malaysia's Covid-19 death toll to 1,363 or 0.37 percent of total cases.

Currently, 212 patients are in the intensive care unit with 82 requiring respiratory aid. 

Global Covid-19 statistics

 The total number of Covid-19 cases worldwide, according to Worldometer, at the time of writing this article stood at 139,671,575 (134,517,429 cases at the same time last Friday) and deaths 2,999,270 (2,914,945 last Friday). The total number of recoveries stood at 118,719,140.

Some 216 countries are affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and those in the top 10 of the list are the United States, India, Brazil, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Italy, Spain and Germany. The breakdown is as follows: United States 32,224,139 cases (578,993 deaths); India 14,287,740 (174,335); Brazil 13,758,093 (365,954); France 5,187,879 (100,073); Russia 4,675,153 (104,398); United Kingdom 4,380,976 (127,191); Turkey 4,086,957 (35,031); Italy 3,826,156 (115,937); Spain 3,396,685 (76,882); and Germany 3,095,016 (80,141). 

China, where the outbreak was first reported at end-December 2019, is now on the 94th spot in the list of countries affected by Covid-19 with 90,468 cases while its death toll remained at 4,636. 

Besides Malaysia, the three other Southeast Asian nations that have joined the list of 88 countries with more than 100,000 cases are Indonesia (19th spot) with 1,589,359 cases and 43,073 deaths, the Philippines (27th spot) with 904,285 cases and 15,594 deaths, and Myanmar (82nd spot) with 142,610 cases and 3,206 deaths.

Singapore (102nd spot) has reported 60,735 cases and 30 deaths; Cambodia 5,218 cases and 36 deaths; Thailand 37,453 cases and a death toll of 97; and Vietnam 2,758 cases and 35 deaths.

Brunei’s tally stands at 221 cases and three deaths, while Laos has reported 53 cases and zero fatality. 

Covid-19 background

 According to the World Health Organisation’s website, its China country office was informed of cases of pneumonia that were detected in Wuhan on Dec 31, 2019. On Jan 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 Feb 11, 2020, 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 Jan 30, 2020, 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 much 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. — Bernama

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