PUTRAJAYA, Jan 28 — Malaysia is confident of containing the spread of a new coronavirus from China, even as some experts warned governments worldwide that containment may fail.
Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said today the ministry is confident that the situation remains under control, despite cluster-like cases being recorded in the country. Malaysia recorded four confirmed cases so far.
“We will do our level best from KKM (Ministry of Health). My team, from top to the ground, you know, we (have) prepared ourselves, we prepared ourselves well in advance,” he said, citing the recent polio and influenza outbreaks.
He was speaking at a joint press conference with Tourism, Arts, and Culture Minister Mohamaddin Ketapi at the latter’s ministry here. The ministers earlier met with tourism players to discuss the repercussions of the outbreak on the local tourism industry.
There are currently 34 Malaysians under investigation for possibly being infected with the novel coronavirus currently known as 2019-nCoV, as well as 30 Chinese nationals, and one more case from Jordan, bringing the total number of cases under investigation to 65, Dzulkefly said.
Of these cases, 61 tested negative, while three more, all of whom are from China, are waiting for their test results. One was positive, the fourth reported case of the coronavirus for Malaysia.
International media reports have quoted local health officials as saying that 106 people have died so far in China due to 2019-nCoV, with 4,515 confirmed cases. One death has been reported in Beijing, some 1,000km away from the origin of the outbreak in central Chinese city Wuhan.
Wuhan, provincial capital of Hubei province, is currently under lockdown, with outbound flights and public transport services in the Chinese city of 11 million people shut down indefinitely. China has since quarantined 18 cities in central Hubei province, affecting 56 million people. The Malaysian government has temporarily suspended entry to Chinese nationals from Hubei province and its provincial capital Wuhan city.
Media reports have quoted experts as saying that it may no longer be feasible to contain the new coronavirus with public health measures as the true severity of the outbreak is not yet known, and so its full impact is impossible to predict.
For instance, the four confirmed coronavirus cases in Malaysia, all of whom are Chinese nationals from Wuhan, did not have a fever or show signs of infection when they entered Johor from Singapore, proving it challenging for officials of any country to detect and control the coronavirus from entering.
On the latest development on the four coronavirus cases in Malaysia, Dzulkefly said all four are being treated at Hospital Sungai Buloh in Selangor, and are in stable condition. Tests still need to be done to ensure that they have been cured though, he said.
“That (PCR screening tests to be administered in one weeks’ time) will allow us to do research and (formulate) findings,” he added.
He also said that the three Chinese nationals in Malaysia who contracted 2019-nCoV from Singapore’s first confirmed case are still in isolation and in stable condition, while 17 people in close contact with the fourth positive case in Malaysia have tested negative, and were released.
On reports that an HIV drug is being requested by Chinese health authorities to help its government in addressing the crisis, Dzulkefly said his ministry will keep tabs on the development, noting that a vaccine is being developed by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“(It will be out) in three to five months, I was told. But not… this particular antiviral (drug)… Perhaps we can immediately follow through on it,” he said, adding that the aluvia drug is not being used in Malaysia at present to treat infected patients.
Tourism minister Mohamaddin, meanwhile, said China was right by not allowing Chinese citizens from Wuhan to exit the country, which Malaysia appreciates and has emulated.
“Besides this, the Malaysian Health Ministry has taken the best approach by screening travelers at airports and entry points for diseases so that we get healthy travelers,” he said.
There is no reason today for anyone to be in fear of the virus, he added, as that was a grave misconception.
Respiratory droplet transmission is the main route of transmission, according to China, but the virus can also be transmitted through contact. The WHO currently lists the outbreak as a “very high” risk assessment for China, and “high” risk at the regional and global level.
Cases have been reported in Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, Australia, Singapore, Taiwan, the United States, Japan, South Korea, France, Canada, Vietnam, Cambodia, Germany, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.