Another cluster rises in Sabah

PETALING JAYA: As Sabah prepares to go to the polls, yet another Covid-19 cluster has emerged in the state – this time dubbed the Pulau cluster in Kunak on the east coast.There are now nine Covid-19-positive patients, all from the same family, in the cluster, says Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

“The index case, Patient No. 9,940, is a Malaysian woman aged 68.

“She was found unconscious at home and was taken to Kunak Hospital, then referred to Tawau Hospital to receive treatment for a heart attack, stroke and liver disease, where a Covid-19 screening turned up positive on Sept 13.

“She is now being treated at the intensive care unit (ICU) and requires ventilator support,” Dr Noor Hisham told a press conference in Putrajaya yesterday.

Following contact tracing and active case detection, eight others were found to be positive, and they are all family members of the index case.

Up until yesterday, 128 individuals – involving 109 citizens and 19 non-Malaysians – had been screened in the cluster.

For the Benteng Lahad Datu cluster, Dr Noor Hisham said the four new cases reported had brought the overall number of the cluster to 424.

Of the 424 patients, 186 are Malaysians while the remaining 238 are Filipinos and Indonesians.

A total of 6,610 individuals had been screened in the cluster in Lahad Datu and Tawau.

The Benteng LD cluster was sparked by the arrest of two illegal migrants.

Dr Noor Hisham, who revealed that the effective reproduction number, or the Rt, in the state was at 1.70 as of Sept 13, cautioned Sabahans to be mindful of safety measures during the state election.

The Rt is the average number of people in a population who can become infected by an infectious person.

An Rt value of below one is generally considered safe as it shows that the outbreak is likely to die out while a value above two indicates that the infectivity rate is doubling.

“We do have a standard operating procedure for the election and we encourage the public to comply with it,” he said.

Dr Noor Hisham was answering a question on whether it was safe to hold a state election in Sabah amid clusters emerging in the state and Sabah having a high Rt.

Meanwhile, for the targeted enhanced movement control order (MCO) zone in Kota Setar in Kedah, Dr Noor Hisham said the ministry estimated that 15,000 individuals would be screened from 10 high-risk districts.

The targeted enhanced MCO, which is in effect until Sept 25 following the emergence of the Sungai and Telaga clusters, has seen 12,885 Malaysians screened so far.

Both clusters originated from healthcare workers in two public and private hospitals in the state.

“We suspect the Sungai cluster has a big possibility of involving the D614G mutation,” he said, adding that investigations were underway.

Previously, the D614G mutation of the Covid-19 virus was detected in the Sivagangga cluster in Kedah and the Ulu Tiram cluster in Johor.

The mutation is said to make the virus 10 times more infectious than the original strain.

(The Sivagangga cluster started with a restaurant owner in Kedah who had visited a town of the same name in India while the Ulu Tiram cluster involved a religious centre in Johor.)

Meanwhile, Malaysia recorded 23 new cases yesterday, with 13 of them transmitted locally.

“Of the 13 local transmissions, 10 involved Malaysians and three non-Malaysians. All local transmissions occurred in Sabah,” said Dr Noor Hisham.

The 10 imported cases had come from the Philippines while the other countries were Hungary, Turkey, Qatar, Bangladesh, Nigeria and Morocco.

Six patients recovered yesterday and there were no fatalities.

There are presently 632 active cases in the country, with 14 cases in ICU with four needing ventilator support.

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