KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 8 — Covid-19 infectivity in Malaysia has spiked to 1.72, doubling from an R0 of 0.72 two weeks ago, which means that each case on average now will create 1.72 new cases.
According to a graphic tweeted by the Ministry of Health (MOH), the R0 (pronounced R-naught) for Covid-19 in Malaysia had dipped below 1 — which means that the outbreak is likely dying out — last August 20, before climbing back up and hovering at about 1 from August 30, and suddenly surging to 1.72 yesterday. An R0, called the basic reproduction number, greater than 1 means that the virus will likely keep spreading.
The R0 is described as the average number of people who will catch the disease from a single infected person in a population that has not seen the disease before.
The surge in coronavirus infectivity came after health authorities reported an explosion in Covid-19 cases at a police lock-up in Lahad Datu, Sabah, that has spread to a prison in Tawau, ratcheting up 128 cases so far. The Benteng LD cluster saw 62 new cases reported today.
Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, at a press conference reporting Malaysia’s daily Covid-19 cases today, reminded the public not to neglect the government’s advice on standard operating procedures (SOPs) to curb the outbreak.
In the press conference, the health director-general also highlighted that the Sungai cluster — which was initially detected at a private medical centre in Kedah, but has spread to Perlis — could have possibly started with an asymptomatic Covid-19 patient that infected the index case (or the first person identified in a cluster), a health care worker.
“We have identified 16 health care professionals infected with Covid-19, and one staff has also infected seven family members,” Dr Noor Hisham said at the press conference today.
The Sungai cluster has ratcheted up 26 confirmed Covid-19 cases so far, comprising 25 in Kedah and one in Perlis. Twenty-three of them were newly reported today.
The Health director-general urged health care professionals in clinics or hospitals to protect themselves first, before attending to patients.
“If we do not practice our clinical practice guidelines — using our personal protective equipment (PPE) and so on, while treating a patient who is asymptomatic but positive with Covid-19, staff or health personnel can still be infected.”
Dr Noor Hisham also reminded citizens of Sabah to maintain SOPs during the upcoming state elections to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“If there is a large gathering with no social distancing or wearing masks and handwashing is not practiced, then the risk of infection will increase,” Dr Noor Hisham warned.
He also reminded the public not to practice hand shakes or fist bumps, as even minimal touching carries a risk of spreading the coronavirus.
Dr Noor Hisham also announced that Malaysia’s second biggest Covid-19 cluster, the DTI Bukit Jalil cluster at the immigration detention centre in Kuala Lumpur, has ended as of today. This cluster recorded a total of 653 positive cases involving three Malaysians and 650 foreigners.