By Melati Mohd Ariff
This is a round-up of COVID-19 related matters in Malaysia and globally from Sept 18 up to 12.30 pm today. In Malaysia, case numbers have exceeded 10,500 and globally, the virus has infected more than 32 million people and caused over 980,000 deaths. More than 200 countries and territories are affected by the pandemic.
KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) – Sabah currently has a total of eight clusters that are causing a sudden surge in COVID-19 cases in Malaysia where the virus has already claimed 133 lives.
Out of the five red zones in the country, four are located in Tawau, Lahad Datu, Kunak and Semporna in Sabah and one in Kota Setar, Kedah.
The most aggressive cluster the nation has seen thus far is the Benteng LD cluster in the land below the wind.
First announced on Sept 1, the cluster has reported 730 cases as of yesterday, out of which 570 are in Tawau, 159 in Lahad Datu and one in Sandakan.
The Bangau-Bangau cluster, had five cases when it was first detected on Sept 22 but two days later, the number of positive cases swelled to 60.
The Laut cluster, announced on Sept 12, now has 22 cases. Other clusters that have cropped up in Sabah are Pulau (Kunak, Sept 15), Selamat (Semporna, Sept 17), Bakau (Semporna Sept 19), Quarters (Tongod, Sept 21) and Udin (Tawau, Sept 23).
The peninsula has its share of clusters as well but yesterday, only the Sungai cluster, first detected on Sept 7, reported one new case. This cluster has so far recorded 91 cases – 90 in Kedah and one in Perlis.
MOH ON THE ALERT
The Ministry of Health (MOH), meanwhile, is already making preparations, such as increasing the number of beds in local hospitals and setting up temporary quarantine centres in several locations, to handle any surge in COVID-19 transmissions in Sabah.
The health authorities’ concern about the situation in Sabah is understandable what with new clusters emerging one after another and the state election due tomorrow.
At a media briefing on Wednesday, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the ministry has prepared an extra 692 beds in Sabah, 251 of which have been placed in Hospital Lahad Datu, 401 in Hospital Tawau and 40 in Hospital Kunak.
The following have been turned into quarantine centres: Tawau Teaching Institute with 720 beds, Malaysian Palm Oil Board’s Palm Inn in Lahad Datu (118 beds), Malaysian Islamic Training Institute (160) and Felda Sahabat (76).
In Tawau, quarantine centres have also been set up in government hospitals and other locations. In Kunak, temporary quarantine facilities have also been made available at the Rumah Anak-Anak Yatim hostel (15 beds), State Government House (12) and Sekolah Menengah Agama Kunak hostel (100).
In Semporna district, a 180-bed facility has been set up at the Ria People’s Housing Project which will serve as a quarantine centre during the state election.
NEW DAILY CASES
Over the 24-hour period up to noon yesterday, 71 new cases were reported, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases in Malaysia to 10,576. The nation’s cumulative total entered into five digits on Sept 16.
COVID-19 active cases now stood at 777.
On Wednesday (Sept 23), 147 new cases were recorded with Sabah accounting for 134 of them. A bulk of the new cases reported this week comprised local transmissions.
There has been a sharp drop in imported cases, largely due to restrictive measures by the government to ban the entry of Long-Term Social Visit Pass holders. The ban took effect on Sept 7 and it involves entry of travellers from 23 nations that have recorded more than 150,000 COVID-19 cases.
Yesterday, 64 patients were discharged, bringing the total number of recovered cases to 9,666, which is 91.4 percent of total cases.
Three fatalities were reported on Wednesday – two in Sabah and one in Kedah. No death was reported yesterday and the toll remains at 133.
Presently, six patients are undergoing treatment in the intensive care unit with two requiring respiratory aid.
WORRY OVER R0
In a media statement issued yesterday, Dr Noor Hisham once again voiced his concern about the rising Rt or R-naught (R0) value, which indicates the infectivity level of a virus at the start of an outbreak in the community.
He said Malaysia first started recording a rise in the R0 value on Sept 7 when it stood at 1.72. The surge in COVID-19 cases in Sabah and Kedah had an impact on the nation’s overall Rt value, he said.
Worried about a potential exponential rise in COVID-19 cases in the country, the government immediately embarked on implementing public health measures to control the spread of the virus.
It swiftly imposed a ban on the entry of travellers from high-risk nations and stepped up enforcement in border areas to weed out illegal immigrants who try to enter the country through illicit routes or laluan tikus, which is particularly prevalent in Sabah.
The prompt enforcement of administrative Enhanced Movement Control Order in affected zones has also helped to stem the spread of the virus.
Quick action by contact-tracing for positive cases, targeted screening for high-risk groups, implementing quarantine and providing early treatment to symptomatic cases have managed to lower the R0 to less than 1.0, said Dr Noor Hisham.
However, the R0 value has remained volatile and on Wednesday it rose to 1.34 (in Sabah, it was 1.37 and Kedah 1.15).
He said more needs to be done to break the COVID-19 chain of infection in the community and urged the public to stay at home “if they have no important business outside”.
GLOBAL COVID-19 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 32,411,415 (30,367,859 cases at the same time last Friday) and 987,742 deaths (950,821 last Friday). The total number of recoveries stood at 23,925,406.
The United States continues to head the list of badly-hit nations with 7,185,471 cases (6,874,596 last Friday) and 207,538 deaths (202,213 last week).
India is now on the second spot with 5,816,103 cases and 92,317 deaths.
Brazil is third with 4,659,909 cases and 139,883 fatalities. Russia is fourth with 1,128,836 cases and 19,948 deaths.
Another 34 countries have recorded cases exceeding 100,000, namely:
Colombia 790,823 cases (24,924 deaths), Peru 788,930 (31,938), Mexico 715,457 (75,439), Spain 704,209 (31,118), Argentina 678,266 (31,118), South Africa 667,049 (16,283) France 497,237 (31,511), Chile 451,634 (12,469), Iran 436,319 (25,015), United Kingdom 416,363 (41,902), Bangladesh 355,384 (5,072), Iraq 337,106 (8,799), Saudi Arabia 331, 857 (4,599), Turkey 309,790 (7,785), Pakistan 309,015 (6,444), Italy 304,323 (35,781), Philippines 296,755 (5,127), Germany 281,345 (9,519), Indonesia 262,022 (10,105), Israel 212,115 (1,378), Ukraine 188,106 (3,757), Canada 149,094 (9,249), Bolivia 132,618 (7,765), Equador 131,146 (11,213), Qatar 124,425 (212), Romania 118,054 (4,591), Dominican Republic 110,122 (2,076), Morocco 110,099 (1,956), Belgium 108,768 (9,965), Panama 108,726 (2,297), Kazakhstan 107,590 (1,699), Egypt 102,513 (5,835) and Kuwait 101,851 (592).
China, where the outbreak was first reported at end-December 2019, is now on the 43rd spot with 85,322 cases while its death toll remains at 4,634.
In Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Indonesia have joined the countries with more than 100,000 cases. Next is Singapore with 57,654 cases while its death tally remains at 27, followed by Myanmar with 8,515 cases and 133 deaths. Last week at this time, Myanmar reported 4,299 cases and 61 deaths.
Thailand has recorded 3,516 cases while its death toll remains at 59, followed by Vietnam with 1,069 cases and 35 deaths.
Cambodia’s cases have remained at 275 and zero death. Also unchanged are Brunei’s tally at 141 cases and two deaths Laos’ 23 cases and zero fatality.
According to the WHO 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, 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, 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
Malaysian National News Agency
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