Covid-19 Cases Top MOH Forecast When Foreigners Included

Six new cases today among Malaysians belong to a newly identified Cheras flat cluster, whose source of infection is still under investigation.

KUALA LUMPUR, June 1 — Malaysia’s new Covid-19 challenge now is on dealing with infections among foreigners in the country, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said today.

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah showed a Covid-19 epidemiological model by the National Institutes of Health (MOH) that showed daily cases exceeded forecasts during the fourth Movement Control Order (MCO) and the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) from April 29 to May 31.

However, this, he said, was due to coronavirus infections from imported cases, foreigners detained in immigration detention centres, as well as migrant workers in the community.

“This means that the country is now faced with a new challenge that we must tackle together, which is the increase of Covid-19 cases among foreigners.

“However, non-citizens should not be excluded or stigmatised by Malaysians. In fact, we should help them to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the country,” Dr Noor Hisham told a press conference.

Covid-19 epidemiology model (minus imported cases, immigrants at immigration detention centres, and foreigners in the community) as of May 31, 2020. Graphic by Ministry of Health.

When excluding imported cases, immigration detention centre cases, and cases involving foreigners, the daily increase fell below NIH’s projections in the scenario of standard operating procedure (SOP) compliance during the CMCO from May 4 to 31.

“When we only look at Malaysians, we’re below the daily forecast. This means Malaysians are following the SOP. But now, we must focus on foreign workers. They’re also in the community,” Dr Noor Hisham said.

“Year on year, the mixing between Malaysians and foreigners is certainly limited, but their presence, especially migrant workers, has helped to strengthen the economy of our country.”

Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, Director-General of Health Malaysia

“So, we need to identify and find ways to solve the issue of Covid-19 transmission among them,” said Dr Noor Hisham.

In accordance with the Housing Minimum Housing Standards and Workers’ Facilities Act (Act 446), foreign workers’ crowded accommodation should be addressed immediately to ensure it does not become the root cause of Covid-19 infection and contagious diseases, he added.

He also insisted that foreign workers from construction and safety sectors in red zones, or areas reporting more than 40 new Covid-19 cases, must be screened for the virus, whereas employers are encouraged to initiate screening processes for foreign workers from the yellow and green zones.

Embassies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were also urged to join hand in hand to communicate with foreign workers effectively in order to disseminate information on the current situations guidelines to be followed by the workers.

Finally, Dr Noor Hisham also stated that the employers are responsible for educating their foreign workers about recommended hygiene practices to control Covid-19 transmission.

Malaysia recorded 38 new Covid-19 cases today, of which 12 were local transmissions involving six Malaysians and six foreigners. Twenty-six were imported cases. This brings the total number of Covid-19 cases in the country to 7,857 so far.

The six new cases today among Malaysians belong to a newly identified Cheras flat cluster, whose source of infection is still under investigation.

MOH also reported zero deaths for nine consecutive days, leaving the death toll at 115. Dr Noor Hisham said 51 patients had recovered and were discharged today, bringing the total number of active cases receiving treatment at hospitals to 1,338.

Eight patients are still being treated in the intensive care units (ICU), with two under ventilator support.

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