Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad

COVID-ROUNDUP – WEEKLY ROUND

BY MELATI MOHD ARIFF

KUALA LUMPUR: A total of 17 patients in Malaysia have recovered fully from Covid-19 while five are still being treated at the time of writing.

Among those who made a full recovery was the first Malaysian infected by Covid-19. The 41-year-old man (Malaysia’s ninth case) was treated at Hospital Sungai Buloh and discharged on Feb 17.

The total cumulative confirmed Covid-19 cases in Malaysia remained at 22 cases today since the first three cases were announced on Jan 25.

Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad

On Wednesday, Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said although the ministry has succeeded in reducing the number of Covid-19 patients, it cannot afford to be complacent in view of the situation in Singapore which has elevated its response to the coronavirus outbreak to Code Orange. As of yesterday, the city-state has recorded 85 Covid-19 cases out of which 34 have recovered.

In China, the numbers of cases and death have continued to rise sharply. At the time of writing, 74,675 cases have been recorded. Total deaths numbered 2,125.

In Malaysia, no new cases of Covid-19 were recorded from Monday to Friday this week.

Last Saturday (Feb 15), the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced three new Covid-19 cases in Malaysia, bringing the total number to 22. Fifteen of them were Chinese citizens, six were Malaysians and one (22nd case) an 83-year-old American woman who is currently undergoing treatment at Hospital Sungai Buloh. She had arrived in Kuala Lumpur with her husband on Feb 14 and they were among the passengers of cruise ship WS Westerdam that was allowed to dock in Cambodia on Feb 13.

According to MOH statistics, up to Feb 20, a total of 858 cases were tested negative for Covid-19 in Malaysia, while 44 were still awaiting lab test results.

It was also reported that Malaysia will bring back the second batch of citizens from Wuhan, China, next Tuesday (Feb 25) but there was no announcement on the number of Malaysians to be flown back.

On Feb 4, a total of 107 Malaysians were flown home from Wuhan in a special flight and on arrival, they were whisked off to the Higher Education Leadership Academy (Akept) in Nilai, Negeri Sembilan, for a 14-day quarantine. 

In another development, Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a Facebook post that two Malaysians on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which is docked at the Yokohama port in Japan, have tested positive for Covid-19. Another two Malaysians onboard are awaiting their test results.

Covid-19 global status

The latest worldwide Covid-19-related statistics released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and available on MOH’s website are as follows.

At the time of writing, the total number of cases stood at 75,725 involving 27 countries. Total deaths stood at 2,128 and total recovered cases 16,108.

Meanwhile, Covid-19 claimed the life of Wuhan Hospital director Liu Zhimming on Tuesday. Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province in China, was the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak.

Earlier on Feb 7, ophthalmologist Li Wenliang also succumbed to the coronavirus in Wuhan. Incidentally, the doctor had earlier been detained by Chinese authorities for blowing the whistle on the threat posed by the coronavirus. 

Media reports also stated that some 500 hospital staff in Wuhan had been infected by Covid-19. Most of them were employees of Xiehe and Renmin hospitals.

On Monday (Feb 17), authorities in Wuhan launched a three-day campaign to screen residents in order to leave no person unattended and to curb contagion.

According to a report by China Daily/ANN, the house-to-house screening measure was carried out after the city issued a public notice on Feb 14 that required all residential communities to be locked down to reduce people’s movements and limit the transmission of the disease.

All houses were checked to identify infected cases, suspected cases and those who had been in close contact with infected cases.

In Iran, meanwhile, news agency Isna quoted a Health Ministry spokesman as saying that three more people have been infected by Covid-19. On Wednesday (Feb 19), Iran announced its first two Covid-19 cases but both patients, who were senior citizens from Qom, succumbed to the infection on the same day they were tested positive for the coronavirus. 

In South Korea, AFP reported that the number of Covid-19 cases there has spiked to 156 as of today, making it the worst infected country outside China. More than 80 of the cases were linked to Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu, with the first case involving a 61-year-old woman who visited the church several times although she had developed a fever. 

In Japan on Wednesday, AFP reported the death of two patients in their 80s from the Diamond Princess Cruise ship that was infected with Covid-19.

The ship’s 3,711 passengers and crew were placed under 14-day quarantine after it docked at Yokohama port on Feb 5. About 600 of them were tested positive for Covid-19.

Covid-19 background

According to the WHO website, its China country office was informed of cases of pneumonia 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.

Besides Malaysia, Covid-19 has also spread to Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, Vietnam, Germany, the United States, France, Macao, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Canada, Italy, Russia, Spain, Finland, Cambodia, Sweden, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Belgium.

On Jan 30, WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak as a global emergency. By then, it had spread to 18 countries and caused 170 deaths.

The declaration was aimed at preventing or reducing transmissions across borders.

With 2,128 deaths worldwide as of today, Covid-19 has overtaken SARS which caused 774 deaths in 2003.

On Feb 11, media reports from Wuhan stated that new research based on data gathered from more than 1,000 Covid-19 patients in China found that the incubation period for the virus was as long as 24 days rather than the previously believed 14 days.

The study, carried out by about 36 researchers from Chinese hospitals and medical schools, found that less than half of the patients showed fever symptoms when they first saw a doctor.

Head of the research team Dr Zhong Nanshan, a Chinese epidemiologist who discovered SARS coronavirus in 2003, was quoted as saying that much is still unknown about Covid-19. He said compared with SARS and a MERS-COV case, the absence of fever was more prominent for Covid-19. – Bernama