by S BIRRUNTHA / pic by ARIF KARTONO
A SLIGHT improvement was seen in the number of Covid-19 new cases yesterday, as 106 patients tested positive, half of the 212 cases that were reported the day before.
The Ministry of Health (MoH) said the new cases, recorded as of noon yesterday, bring the total number of inflictions to 1,624.
Health DG Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said out of the 106 new cases reported, 43 cases were related to the cluster of patients that attended the tabligh event in Sri Petaling.
“The remaining 63 cases are related to other clusters and are still under investigation for certainty.
“So far, 64 cases of Covid-19 have been treated in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Of these, 27 still needs breathing assistance,” he said in a statement yesterday.
Dr Noor Hisham also informed that one death was reported yesterday, involving a 70-year-old Malaysian citizen, bringing the cumulative death toll to 15.
“The 15th death case is the 1,519th case. He had diabetes and hypertension, and is suspected of having a history of contact with the 703rd case of Covid-19 during Friday prayers,” he said.
According to MoH, the patient was hospitalised at Sultanah Fatimah Hospital in Muar on March 18. It was informed that he was given respiratory aids in the ICU and later confirmed dead on March 24 at 5.35am.
Meanwhile, Dr Noor Hisham said the laboratory tests conducted in the government’s facility laboratories to detect Covid-19 infection is by using the Real-Time Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (rRT-PCR) technique.
“The rRT-PCR test will detect the presence of the Covid-19 virus in the patient’s body. In turn, a positive test means that the individual has been infected with the Covid19 virus.
“Whereas, the rapid test kit (RTK) technique which is available in the market is to detect antibodies produced in the body as a result of the infection,” he said.
Dr Noor Hisham said RTK tests that detect antibodies cannot detect viruses or identify and give a quick confirmation of infection.
He said antibodies appear in the body about five to eight days after infection, hence RTK tests are not recommended for the diagnosis of Covid-19.
MoH also urged the public not to undertake the RTK test arbitrarily, without getting the advice of a medical practitioner.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Dr Noor Hisham said the success of the Movement Control Order (MCO) depends on the cooperation of the people.
“What we want to do is break the chain of infection. Stay at home, wash your hands and you will help us break the transmission.”
He also noted that the ministry is increasing its laboratory capacity to test 16,500 samples for Covid-19 daily and this was not far off from the 20,000 tests a day that South Korea is capable of doing.
“We will continue to test more people, detect more cases and take the infected people out of the community, then we may flatten the curve,” Dr Noor Hisham said.
The ministry’s concern now, he said, is whether the limited capacity would be able to treat an exponential spike in cases, particularly if ventilators are needed.
“We hope it doesn’t come to a stage where we have to decide which patient has ventilation and which does not,” he said.
Dr Noor Hisham said the authorities are already preparing for the worst case scenario by setting up an additional 3,400 beds and, if needed, converting training institutions into wards.
On a global level, Malaysia has shown improvement in terms of controlling the virus from spreading rapidly, while other countries are still hard at work to quell the disease.
At press time, China still records the highest number of infections (81,601), followed by Italy (51,938), the US (31,573), Spain (28,572) and Germany (24,774). Australia yesterday recorded a total of 1,886 cases, while 1,656 cases were reported in Israel.