MoH says immigration depots isolated, Covid-19 infection under control

PUTRAJAYA, 25 May 2020:

The public need not worry about the increase in the number of Covid-19 cases detected at the three Immigration Detention Depots (DTIs) as the DTIs are in isolated areas and under control by local authorities, said Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

He said the Ministry of Health (MoH) would continue to cooperate with the Immigration Department, Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) and other government agencies to manage the Covid-19 cases involving DTIs.

Dr Noor Hisham said the MoH had detected 112 cases at the three DTIs in Sepang, Bukit Jalil and Semenyih out of the 172 new cases reported today.

“Thus far overall, 227 positive cases have been detected at the three DTIs involving non-Malaysians, with 53 cases involving citizens from Bangladesh, India (41), Indonesia (38), Myanmar (37), Pakistan (28), China (17), Cambodia (4), Nepal (3), Sri Lanka (2) and one each from the Philippines, Libya, Egypt and Syria.

“Various preventive and control activities have already been carried out, for example disinfection, health education like personal hygiene, washing hands with water and soap regularly as well as emphasising on social distancing, he said at his daily press conference on Covid-19 today.

Dr Noor Hisham said a new cluster had been detected at the Sepang DTI and that as of today a total of 1,449 samples had been taken, with 36 positive cases detected (29 of which were reported today), 540 negative and 873 samples still awaiting results.

For the Bukit Minyak cluster, a total of 1,536 samples have been taken from 1,422 detainees and 114 personnel. Out of the total, 126 tested positive, 514 negative and 896 waiting for results.

For the Semenyih cluster, a total of 1,757 samples have been taken from 1,630 detainees and 127 staff members. Out of the total, 66 tested positive, 753 negative and 938 waiting for results.

To ensure the full detection of all Covid-19 cases, Dr Noor Hisham said MoH – through district Health offices – would proceed to its next plan of action by adopting a targeted approach.

“For example: investigation; close contact tracing; risk assessment by relevant agencies; active screening for symptoms and samples for case detection; positive cases to be isolated and treated at hospitals; and close contacts to be placed under the Observation and Surveillance Order for Covid-19 Contact under Section 15(1) of Act 342.”

Dr Noor Hisham also said an administrative personnel at the Semenyih DTI was confirmed to be Covid-19 positive and MoH would screen the person’s family members as well as carry out contact tracing.

He added that officers and personnel from all three affected DTIs had been quarantined and replaced by new staff. MOH had screened all detainees and personnel while investigation into the cause of the infection was still going on.

“Disinfection has been carried out… screening and investigation are being carried out… there’s a possibility the infection could have been due to confined spaces,” said Dr Noor Hisham.

MoH has also detected a new Covid-19 cluster at a construction site in Kuala Lumpur where 44 cases were reported today.

Without giving further information about the cluster, Dr Noor Hisham urged construction companies to pay attention not only to the standard operating procedure (SOP) for worksites but also for workers’ accommodations.

“Our studies show that most probably (it happened because) the foreign workers are staying in confined or cramped spaces. That is the main factor for the spread of infection among them.”

Even though worksite SOP had been provided to construction companies, Dr Noor Hisham said they should also focus on other related aspects.

“It’s important to also look at their (workers’) accommodation and how they live there. For example, in Masjid India, 30 workers were staying together in one small flat.”

He said construction companies should look at other factors besides complying with the SOP because living in confined areas is one of the causes for the virus to spread.

“We (MOH) believe that narrow spaces are one of the important factors that should be delved into and (let’s) look at how social distancing can be implemented. Today we don’t have the vaccine, but the ‘vaccine’ is safe distancing.”

Asked whether Malaysia is ready to get involved with the vaccine research undertaken by Thailand, Dr Noor Hisham said MoH is prepared to conduct joint research with other countries.

He noted a recent delegation from China had told the ministry that China was into phase two of its research and was expecting a report in November or December on whether the vaccine tests conducted on animals were successful before proceeding to phase three for trials on humans.

“We (MoH) haven’t received a report about testings on humans, and now it has only been done on animals. If they have determined that the vaccine could be successfully applied on animals and can be used on humans, MoH will try to cooperate with the country to do joint research.”

Thailand has begun Covid-19 vaccine testing on monkeys after the testing on mice showed positive results.

Thailand’s National Vaccine Institute director Nakorn Premsri was reported as saying if the testing on monkeys produced positive results, by the end of this year or early next year they could conduct human trials.

Meanwhile, when asked on concerns regarding the increase in clinical wastes following the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr Noor Hisham said at present there was no issue on the management of clinical wastes as they were disposed of according to guidelines.

He added that hospitals and health clinics would manage clinical wastes before outsourcing them to support services at MoH.

– Bernama