Health DG Disputes Workers’ Covid-19 Mass Testing

By CodeBlue | 11 May 2020

Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah says workers are still exposed to Covid-19 infections in the community even after testing negative once.

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KUALA LUMPUR, May 11 — Widespread testing of employees before returning to work is redundant as they will still be exposed to possible Covid-19 infection from their community, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said today.

As the nation enters into the second phase of the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) effective from May 13 to June 9, some medical experts from the Malaysian Medical Association and Universiti Malaya have questioned workers’ Covid-19 mass screenings, pointed out that people can still get infected after clearing a single test.

“If we screen employees, then they go to work, they would still be exposed to the community the next week. So, the question is how many times do we have to test?

“They are exposed to the community every day and the coronavirus is in the community,” said Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah at a press conference today.

He reiterated MOH’s targeted testing strategy, saying that there are eight target groups for coronavirus testing as of yesterday.

“If we do an Enhanced Movement Control Order (EMCO) in certain areas, we will screen everyone there, whether citizens or not,” explained Dr Noor Hisham, regarding MOH’s targeted testing strategy.

He also noted that sporadic Covid-19 infections from surveillance of flu-like have been decreasing, with cumulative unlinked coronavirus cases at 207. In a period of weeks, health authorities only detected three coronavirus cases from the monitoring of influenza-like illness and severe acute respiratory infections.

“As per our targeted approach, locality and target groups, we look at jemaah tabligh, tahfiz schools, EMCO; now we look at clusters or targets like the markets,” said Dr Noor Hisham, adding that MOH was also planning to increase coronavirus screening for people undergoing surgery.

Dr Noor Hisham reported that only six out of 8,528 pre-surgery cases were positive for Covid-19, or 0.1 per cent. On the community screening of 5,433 individuals in Selangor, positive Covid-19 cases are only 10, which is a 0.18 per cent positivity rate. In terms of screening at several markets, to date, 25,034 have been screened with only 183 positive, which is a 0.7 per cent positivity rate. Malaysians returning from overseas are also tested for Covid-19, with a positivity rate of below 1 per cent.

“If there is an outbreak, if there is an increase in cases at one place, such as a factory, then we will take action,” he said.

“Now, we only screen those with positive symptoms, or the asymptomatic who have close contact with positive cases.”

Health authorities have previously reported Covid-19 clusters at a factory in Pedas, Negri Sembilan; a construction site in Ampang here; another construction site in Setia Alam, Selangor; and a security guard cluster at a shopping centre in Cheras.

MOH today reported 70 new Covid-19 cases, including 31 infections among foreign nationals and 13 imported cases. Twenty Covid-19 patients are still in the intensive care unit (ICU), including seven on ventilator support. One new death was reported today.

The Social Security Organisation (Socso) said Saturday that Covid-19 testing, which it provides for free to contributors through its Prihatin Screening Programme, is only compulsory for foreign workers in the construction sector or those working in coronavirus red zones.

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