KUALA LUMPUR, March 23 — Health authorities today reported 212 new coronavirus infections, the highest spike in one day, totalling 1,518 cases in Malaysia.
Covid-19 deaths increased to 14, while 123 of the 212 new infections came from the tabligh cluster. A total of 943 out of 1,518 coronavirus patients, or 62 per cent, came from that Muslim religious gathering cluster. Over 2,000 people are still awaiting test results.
A total of 57 Covid-19 patients are now treated in the intensive care unit (ICU), out of which 27 require breathing assistance.
The 11th coronavirus victim (Patient 1,070) was a 70-year-old Malaysian man who previously travelled to Indonesia and had a history of heart disease and high blood pressure. He was treated in Hospital Canselor Tuanku Muhriz in Selangor and died yesterday.
The 12th death (Patient 1,114) was a 70-year-old Malaysian man who attended the recent tabligh gathering at Sri Petaling mosque here and was treated in Kluang Hospital, Johor. He died today.
The 13th Covid-19 fatality (Patient 1,006) who died today was a 49-year-old Malaysian man from Sarawak, the son of Patient 1,031, a 79-year-old Malaysian woman who succumbed to the disease. Patient 1,006’s sister, 40-year-old Patient 1,032, had also died from coronavirus.
The 14th coronavirus victim (Patient 595) was a 51-year-old Malaysian woman, who had close contact with a Covid-19 patient from the tabligh cluster. She was treated in Miri Hospital, Sarawak, before she died today.
Dr Noor Hisham also assured government health care workers that the Ministry of Health (MOH) has obtained 33 million units of personal protective equipment (PPE) for all health facilities that will be distributed this week, amid a shortage of face masks and other PPE that has seen health care workers tailor their own protective covers. Private medical practitioners have also complained of a shortage of PPE.
“We do have enough stock now,” he said. “I don’t think there’s an issue — masks and PPE, we have ample stock.”
Besides that, the government has also received PPE donations from various parties that are currently being distributed to health facilities according to need.
The Health DG clarified that MOH will now test asymptomatic people; previously, according to World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, MOH only tested those with coronavirus symptoms.
“Now, even without symptoms, for the tabligh participants, we will test all tabligh participants,” he said.
MOH clarified with the press later that the asymptomatic people whom health authorities will test are only those who attended the tabligh gathering.
Dr Noor Hisham also said MOH was looking at recruiting retired nurses and medical experts to help in the coronavirus outbreak.
Medical experts have urged the government to ramp up coronavirus testing in communities, like in South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan, by going door-to-door, instead of waiting for sick people to turn up for tests.
Virologist Dr Sazaly Abu Bakar reportedly told the government to enter coronavirus hotspots and test everyone in those areas. Malaysia’s Covid-19 hotspots are Petaling Jaya, Selangor; and Lembah Pantai, Kuala Lumpur; among others.