Imminent threat of fourth wave

SWAB test being done on a school pupil. File photo: Bernama

BY MELATI MOHD ARIFF

This is a round-up of COVID-19 related matters in Malaysia and globally from April 10 up to noon today. In Malaysia, case numbers have exceeded 367,000.

KUALA LUMPUR: 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 Thursday’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).

On Thursday, 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 Thursday, 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).

On Thursday, 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.

OTHER 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); Negeri 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 rule starting Jan 12 up to August this year.

COVID-19 CASE DETAILS

On Thursday, 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 on Thursday, 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 on Thursday.

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. – Bernama