KUALA LUMPUR, August 7 — Malaysia has not seen a change in the characteristics of Covid-19 patients, Dr Adham Baba said, as other countries report increasingly younger people contracting the disease.
Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii pointed out that the first coronavirus wave in the United States and Europe mostly infected older people, but the median age of Covid-19 cases has declined in the second wave.
“What is the government’s next strategy in ensuring that there is no hidden cluster among this age group as the younger age group is most likely asymptomatic as they have a stronger immunity?” Dr Yii questioned the health minister in Parliament yesterday.
Dr Adham replied: “We are always observing the progress of the outbreak. From the first to the second wave, we have not seen a change of characteristics among those infected.”
CNBC reported White House health advisor Dr Anthony Fauci as saying last July 6 that the average age of new Covid-19 patients in the US has dropped by approximately 15 years compared to a few months ago, as national trends reportedly showed rising infections among people in their 20s and 30s.
Vox reported last month that the median age of Covid-19 cases in Florida in March was 65, dropping to 39.5 years in the previous two weeks as of July 17. The majority, or 61 per cent, of Covid-19 cases in Arizona occurred in people below 45 years old, while about half of new cases in the Texas counties of Harris and Dallas were reported in people under 40.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) has not released any recent data on the average age of Covid-19 patients in Malaysia, nor other clinical characteristics disaggregated according to state, gender, or race. MOH said last March 31 that the highest number of Covid-19 cases were detected among those aged 56 to 60 with 182 cases, followed by people aged 26 to 30 with 180 cases.
Dr Yii also asked the Health Minister during Question Time in the Dewan Rakyat on how the Ministry of Health (MOH) confirms a Covid-19 infection through the RT-PCR test, as he noted that the test detects three genes (E, N, and RdRp) for the coronavirus.
The DAP lawmaker said that he received reports that have been confirmed by the Sarawak state health department director on how some individuals that have been screened were told by hospitals to get quarantined, but their cases were not in any of the daily official Covid-19 reports.
“If only one gene is detected, it should not be presumed as a positive case. In fact, a new swab should be taken to obtain the confirmatory RdRp gene to call it a positive case,” Dr Adham replied.
The health minister firmly said that this method is reliable considering the 9,023 positive Covid-19 cases detected nationwide, including the recent cases from Sarawak and Kedah.
Beaufort MP Azizah Mohd Dun questioned Dr Adham if Malaysia’s contact tracing system can prevent the occurrence of a new cluster or a new wave among the Filipino community in Sabah, as the eighth death reported in Sabah was from that community.
“We are enhancing the surveillance among those who are symptomatic by screening them and treating the positive cases, whereas those with no symptoms but with a history of positive contact are asked to come forward for screening,” Dr Adham replied Azizah.
The health minister reported that as of August 5, Malaysia confirmed 9,023 positive Covid-19 cases, with a rise in the number of cases from Kedah and Sarawak due to the emergence of new clusters.
Dr Adham added that there are nine active clusters in Sarawak; 2,541 people were screened, out of which 67 cases tested positive. The clusters reported are from the Sarawak Medical Centre cluster (three), Sentosa Hospital cluster (31), Santok cluster (four), Melbourne PUI cluster (three), Kuching Engineering cluster (eight), Mambong cluster (seven), Stutong cluster (seven), Kuching Jetty cluster (two), and Kuching construction company cluster (two).
During the minister’s reply, Lanang MP Alice Lau asked Dr Adham to explain if private hospitals are allowed to have their own standard operating procedures (SOPs) for visitors, as she claimed that some private hospitals make it compulsory for all visitors to have a Covid-19 swab test done before they enter the premise, which costs RM100 or more.
The Health Minister said that MOH has set a guideline on SOPs for hospital visitors that can be followed as well as modified by private hospitals.
“The Covid-19 swab test should only be done on those visitors who present with symptoms only,” he concluded.