PETALING JAYA: The rise in Covid-19 cases linked to umrah pilgrims is worrying, says the Health Ministry.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, in his daily statement Tuesday (Jan 11), said that between Nov 25, 2021, and Jan 11, 2022, some 16 clusters linked to umrah pilgrims returning home have been identified.
"From those clusters, seven had index cases that have been confirmed to be of the Omicron variant, with six index cases listed as presumptive Omicron cases pending the results of its whole genome sequencing," he said.
The Keratong 5 Saudi cluster has been identified as the biggest umrah pilgrim-linked cluster, with 36 cases.
Its index case has been confirmed to be of the Omicron variant.
Between Jan 3 and 10, the ministry has detected 19 Delta variant cases, with eight Omicron variant cases.
"Six of the eight Omicron cases were imported, of which five were from umrah pilgrims, and one traveller from Turkey. The remaining two were local infections," he said.
Currently, 253 Covid-19 Variant of Concern cases have been confirmed to be of the Omicron variant, he added.
As many as 456 individuals have been screened within these umrah clusters, with 219 cases confirmed positive.
"All are listed as categories one and two infections, with none receiving treatments at ICU wards. No deaths were also reported," he said.
He added that the rise in cases from these clusters was worrying due to the short period of time for cases to increase, and the quick spread of infection from imported cases to family members.
Dr Noor Hisham linked the spread of cases to poor Covid-19 SOP compliance while performing the umrah, such as not maintaining proper social distancing and not wearing face masks.
"Besides that, when quarantined at home, there had been home visits to those who had just returned from umrah, among other things," he said.
On current Covid-19 statistics, eight states recorded an infectivity rate (R-nought) value of 1.0 or higher. The current national value is at 0.98.
Labuan (1.16), Kuala Lumpur (1.08), Sabah (1.06), Melaka (1.04), Putrajaya (1.03) and Negri Sembilan (1.01) recorded R-nought values of over 1.0.
On the health condition of flood victims, Dr Noor Hisham said that cases of food poisoning have been identified at the SK Pengkalan Besar Tangkak evacuation centre in Johor.
The ministry denied that the cause was due to poor food hygiene at the evacuation centre.
"The cause was not from the food preparation at the PPS but from the victim's hygiene and food that had been left out too long by the victims. Three of the four cases stay in the same area at the PPS," he said, adding that checks on the food handling premises there were satisfactory with a rating of 92%.