The Curious Case Of Covid Patient 701 In Limbo Between KL, Sarawak

The Sarawak state government says the JKR engineer was infected before entering Sarawak, while MOH suspects she may have contracted Covid-19 in Sarawak.

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 17 — An engineer from the Public Works Department (JKR) visited her office, the Works Ministry’s office, and Parliament in Kuala Lumpur within seven days before she tested positive in Kuching, Sarawak, for coronavirus.

The Malaysian woman underwent an RT-PCR test through random screening on September 14 upon arrival at the Kuching International Airport after departure from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Her test results came back positive two days later on September 16, while she was on a flight back to Kuala Lumpur.

The federal Ministry of Health (MOH) today classified the JKR Malaysia employee — who is from Cheras, Kuala Lumpur — as a local Sarawak case, identified through screening at Sarawak’s international gates. The Sarawak state government, however, has classified Patient 701 as an imported case (Sarawak uses its own Covid-19 patient designation separate from MOH).

“The case did not show any early signs and symptoms of Covid-19 infection. The case was also found to have been infected at her place of origin before entering Sarawak,” Sarawak’s State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) said in a statement today.

“The case has also never gone overseas. The source of infection is under further investigation and close contact tracing is underway.”

MOH’s corporate communications unit, however, told the press that the JKR case was listed in Sarawak, pending updates from the Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre (CPRC), because she was suspected to have contracted the coronavirus in Sarawak.

Both MOH and SDMC today maintained Kuching as a green zone, which means the Sarawak state capital has been free of new locally transmitted Covid-19 cases within the past 14 days. Imported cases, including inter-district and inter-state cases, are excluded from the coloured zoning. An area is classified red with 41 or more new local Covid-19 cases reported in the past 14 days, yellow denotes one to 40 cases, while green is zero new cases.

Earlier today, JKR announced that the Covid-19 case was discovered at its headquarters at Jalan Sultan Salahuddin in Kuala Lumpur, adding that its office has been disinfected and that the infected employee’s close contacts among JKR Malaysia staff were currently undergoing screening and home quarantine. Kuala Lumpur maintained today its green status in MOH’s 14-day moving chart.

Based on a 14-day incubation period for Covid-19, a test on September 14 means that the JKR engineer could possibly have been infected as early as September 1. JKR only released a chronology of her movements from September 7. However, as she was asymptomatic, it is also possible that she may not be very contagious.

If she had been infected in Sarawak, as MOH suspects, that would only leave Kuching International Airport as the source of infection, as SDMC said she was swabbed upon arrival at the airport. Or she could have been infected by a passenger on her flight to Kuching; the JKR engineer flew AirAsia to and fro Kuala Lumpur and Kuching.

Besides attending a Dewan Negara sitting in Parliament and a meeting at the Works Ministry’s office at Kerja Raya Complex in Jalan Sultan Salahuddin, Kuala Lumpur, on September 10, the JKR engineer had also attended a meeting at JKR Sarawak in Kuching on September 14 and stayed at Hilton Hotel from September 14 to 15, according to JKR, after she underwent testing at the Kuching airport upon arrival on September 14.

However, at the time of writing, mySejahtera’s hotspot tracker says that no Covid-19 cases have been reported within a 1km radius in the last 28 days in any of those locations, nor in Cheras or JKR’s headquarters in Kuala Lumpur. The MOH coronavirus management app lists cases in its hotspot tracker based on the possible source of infection and areas where infection persists.

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