Covid-19 claims student in Sarawak as youngest victim


A 23-YEAR-OLD university student from Sarawak becomes the country’s youngest fatality of the Covid-19 pandemic as the death toll climbs to 67 people.

Health DG Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah (picture) said the student who is the 2864th case and from Kota Samarahan, Sarawak, had previous thyroid disease background.

“She also has a history of close contact with two Covid-19 positive cases and is a fifth-generation patient of the Kuching church gathering cluster.

“However, she did not attend the church gathering. She was hospitalised at the Sarawak General on March 30, 2020, and passed away at 9.42am yesterday,” he said during his press briefing yesterday.

The previous youngest person to die due to the SARs-like pathogen was a 27-year-old male.

The other death recorded yesterday was a 59-year-old Malaysian man with a history of autoimmune and other chronic diseases. He was one of the participants of the Sri Petaling tabligh event in Kuala Lumpur.

He was treated at the Melaka Hospital and passed away at 5am yesterday.

Dr Noor Hisham said the latest deaths pushed the death toll to 67 as of noon yesterday. Another 109 new cases of Covid-19 had been detected, pushing the total to 4,228 cases.

He said 121 people had recovered and were allowed to return home, bringing the total number of patients who had survived the pandemic to 1,608.

The number of foreigners infected with the virus had also risen, accounting for nearly 10% or 416 of the total number of people infected with the virus in the country.

“Of the 416 cases, 51 were from Indonesia, India (37), Myanmar (31), Pakistan (29) and the Philippines (27).

“Two of the country’s 67 deaths were foreigners. One was a Pakistani (case No 1,906) and the other was an Indian national,” he said.

Dr Noor Hisham said Malaysia’s death rate from the pandemic remained among the lowest in the world, while the recovery rate of 38% is also higher than the global average of around 21.7%.

“Malaysia has a Covid-19 mortality rate of just 1.58%. Other countries are reporting averages of between 4.6% and 5.6%,” he said.

The Ministry of Health (MoH) has added 43 new laboratories including public and private universities to perform the test.

He said currently the maximum capacity of the laboratory to carry out tests detection and validation of Covid-19 is 11,546.

Despite the number of labs, he said MoH has yet to find a foolproof method to rapidly test for the Covid-19 disease, as the existing tests have not shown adequate reliability or accuracy.

“The existing rapid test kits were reportedly prone to returning false positives and negatives. Maybe the best test would be a rapid antigen test kit that has short turnaround time and it is portable, which means you can do it at point of care.

“As I was informed today, we are receiving a new batch. So, we will continue testing them again until we find a reliable and accurate rapid test kit that we can use in our field,” he added.

On the extension of Movement Control Order (MCO), Dr Noor Hisham said MoH will study its data models to see if Malaysia could still experience the exponential Covid-19 growth as predicted previously.

“The findings will guide the decision on whether the MCO must be extended for a second time or if any other areas require stricter lockdowns,” he said.

He also added that MoH has invited the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER), statisticians and epidemiologist to review the case modelling.

Previously, the MIER, JP Morgan, the World Health Organisation has forecasted that Malaysia’s Covid-19 cases would peak in the middle of this month.

Dr Noor Hisham added that the ministry is working on leveraging technology in identifying people like family members and healthcare professionals who had the potential to be infected after coming into contact with positive cases.

He said 80% of the healthcare workers positive with the virus did not contract the disease at healthcare facilities.

“There were no healthcare workers who were treating Covid-19 patients in the regular ward or intensive care unit had been infected.

“Our healthcare workers make sure they put on the personal protective equipment before they treat patients,” he said.