Tahfiz Schools, Madrasah Covid-19 Cases Rising, 85pc Asymptomatic

By CodeBlue | 14 May 2020

More than 1,000 private madrasah have yet to come forward for screening, says Health DG.

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KUALA LUMPUR, May 14 — Health authorities today expressed concern over an increase of Covid-19 cases in tahfiz schools and madrasah, as mostly asymptomatic young students return home for Hari Raya.

A total of 635 people out of 12,384 students, teachers, and staff from 370 madrasah and tahfiz schools screened so far have tested positive for the coronavirus, or 5.1 per cent, marking an increase from 4.4 per cent a week ago on May 7.

“The rising trend of the positivity rate is worrying because it shows the probability of infecting other people in this group is going up,” Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a statement today.

He urged students to remain at their madrasah or tahfiz centre and to contact the nearest government health clinic or district health officer for Covid-19 testing, while those who have already returned home should also get screened.

To date, 19,209 students, teachers and staff were identified from 370 madrasah and tahfiz schools throughout Malaysia. Out of this, a total of 12,384 samples, or 64.5 per cent, were tested for Covid-19, where 635 tested positive. Nearly 1,000 people, or 994 cases, are still awaiting test results, while 10,755 tested negative.

Dr Noor Hisham also revealed a shocking fact that of the 635 positive cases, only 15.1 per cent (96 people) showed symptoms during the screening process, whereas 84.9 per cent (539 people) were asymptomatic or did not show any symptoms.

Covid-19 clusters among tahfiz schools and madrasah as of May 14, 2020. Graphic from the Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre (CRPC) under the Ministry of Health.

Muslim students attending tahfiz (Quranic memorisation) schools and madrasah (religious schools) are aged below 18. Many of these religious schools are not registered with the authorities.

The Health DG said more than 1,000 private madrasah have yet to come forward for screening, as he urged the school management to contact district health offices to do so.

He added that 120 madrasah were visited by participants of the tabligh gathering at the Sri Petaling mosque more than five times. The tabligh group accounts for the largest Covid-19 cluster in Malaysia.

“Through the screening, we detected some positive cases among those students who stay in madrasah. Some students have returned home. We will identify those students who returned home from those 120 madrasah, and if that student is found to be positive, we will screen the family members too,” said the Health DG.

“We are more worried about the festive season. Those asymptomatic students have higher tendencies to spread the virus to elderly people or others who are exposed to them.”

Dr Noor Hisham urged the young students who returned home from religious schools to practice social distancing, wash their hands regularly, wear a face mask if they have symptoms, and to avoid large gatherings.

“In fact, a gathering among family members can also spread the virus. Touching, kissing on the hands can cause others to be infected by the virus, especially elderly people, and the elderly can suffer much worse complications,” he said.

“If possible, avoid visiting during Hari Raya.”

Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, Health director-general

Senior Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob previously said Hari Raya visits were allowed, but only a maximum of 20 visitors to one’s home on the first day of the Muslim festive season.

MOH has carried out active case detection and targeted approach measures to screen students, teachers and staff from identified tahfiz schools, madrasah, sekolah pondok, as well as their close contacts, following coronavirus transmission among participants of the Sri Petaling tabligh gathering.

Six clusters involving tahfiz schools and madrasah have been identified; four of them are sub-clusters of the Sri Petaling gathering, while two are under investigation.

Madrasah and tahfiz school clusters as of May 14, 2020. Graphic from the Ministry of Health.

So far, 107 students, teachers and family members were screened from the new Solok Duku Madrasah cluster, the sixth madrasah tahfiz cluster. Two positive cases were detected among 35 students and another two positive cases involved the family members of teachers, staff and students.

The number of newly infected Covid-19 patients in the country increased to 40 today. Of those, 31 are foreigners. The total number of infected persons in the country is 6,819. There were no new imported cases reported today.

A total of 70 people have been discharged from hospital; the number of recovered patients has increased to 5,351.

A total of 1,356 people are still receiving treatment in hospital. Sixteen of them are in the intensive care unit, including four on ventilator support.

Today, MOH recorded one fatality involving a 39-year-old Malaysian from Pahang, bringing the death toll to 112.

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