Why it is important to find case links

Dr Ooi and other doctors during the live session.

KUCHING: The Covid-19 cases reported in the past few days are not linked to the Pasai Cluster anymore, but were from Sibu town.

Sarawak General Hospital (SGH) senior paediatric consultant and epidemiologist Dr Ooi Mong Hoi said what worried him is that from the cases reported from Sibu town, they still could not be linked to form into a cluster.

“It is important to link all the cases because when we are able to link them and once the transmission chain is identified, then there is a possibility of cutting the transmission chain earlier.

“If there are many cases and they don’t seem to have a common link, then it means that there is a widespread transmission going on in Sibu town and a few transmission chains or networks spreading at the same time,” he said during a live Facebook session with doctors hosted by Sibu Municipal Council (SMC) chairman Clarence Ting today.

Which was why, he said, each time a new case was reported, it is important to do contact tracing as quickly as possible.

“As the Ministry of Local Government and Housing has been announcing the exposed areas everyday, the public are urged to pay attention to the list of exposed areas and if you think you are exposed, quickly go for testing as this will help cut the transmission chain.”

He said in the context of Sibu today, to overcome the situation was to learn from how the third wave of Covid-19 in Kuching last year was managed.

“The third wave was first detected through the Green Hill Cluster last year related to eateries and nightspots.

“There are a lot of cases involving friends and relatives who were together during the meeting sessions.

“So (when there is a case detected), there are friends who quickly inform each other. A lot of people actually do not wait for the contact tracer to inform them. They were actually informed by the cases themselves and they get tested at private hospitals.”

He added that at the same time, public hospitals also swabbed as many people as possible, and these were one of the key important elements in keeping the cases down.

“Now the fourth wave is still very challenging because it occurred in rural areas. And many of our Dayak friends work in town and go back to their villages.”

However, he believed that Sarawak is still very much at a containment stage and “everybody needs to cooperate and play their part in observing the standard operating procedures.”

“The Pasai Siong Cluster will not be the last, certainly is the first (involving many cases), but not the last if more similar clusters will occur.

“So what we need to do is to have a proper research on this and understand the whole development of these clusters so that we can learn, and that the next time we know when a longhouse is exposed, how do we deal with it effectively so that the cases won’t become so
big.”

Meanwhile, in response to a question from Ting on the outbreak in Sibu, Rejang Medical Centre, Sibu obstetrician consultant and gynaecologist Dr Peter Tang said one of the shortfalls in Sibu was that the PCR test results were only out two to three days later if tested at public hospitals. 

“The Ministry of Health should keep up with the testing and by right, it should be out within one day.

“I think we can do it. It is a matter of will as far as I am concerned.”

Dr Tang added that there must be a multi-pronged approach on Covid-19 matters, and while the government had done its part, the public too must cooperate by wearing face masks, practise good hygiene and physical
distancing.