KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 30 — Sarawak health authorities have identified two Covid-19 cases who initially tested negative on RT-PCR tests in Sabah, but tested positive four to five days later on a repeat test when returning to Sarawak.
Sarawak’s State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) said today that Sarawak Patient 711 — a Sarawakian student from Institut Kemahiran Miri who returned from Papar, Sabah, to Miri — underwent an RT-PCR test on September 24 in Sabah and had tested negative, despite having a cold that day.
The student, whose gender and age were not identified, then flew from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, to Miri, Sarawak, on September 28 and upon arrival at the Miri airport, a repeat RT-PCR test was done as the previous test result was more than three days’ old. The student was then kept under a 14-day home quarantine order.
The second RT-PCR test done four days after the first test showed that the student had contracted Covid-19.
The second case, Sarawak Patient 713, was a trainee from the Ministry of Health Training Institute (ILKKM) who had travelled to Menggatal, Sabah, for holidays. During the person’s first RT-PCR screening test on September 22 in Kota Kinabalu, the individual had tested negative.
However, upon arrival at the Kuching airport five days later on September 27, the individual — who did not show any coronavirus symptoms — underwent a second RT-PCR test and was found Covid-19 positive. This case was given a 14-day home quarantine order upon returning to Sarawak.
Amid a surge of Covid-19 outbreaks in Sabah that currently has 932 active cases, SDMC has made it mandatory since September 21 for both Malaysians and foreigners travelling to Sarawak, who come from or pass through Sabah, to do an RT-PCR test three days before departure. They are also required to fill in the “enterSarawak” app or online travel application form.
From September 24, SDMC has imposed 14-day home quarantine for anyone entering Sarawak from Sabah and Labuan, with two RT-PCR swab tests on Day Two and Day 10 of quarantine. Sarawak’s Covid-19 procedure differs from the peninsula, where federal authorities merely require home quarantine for Sabah arrivals pending the results of their Covid-19 test at airports. The gold-standard RT-PCR test usually takes a few days to produce results.
Selangor has reported 47 Covid-19 cases, including many with Sabah travel history, in just four days since September 27, when the Ministry of Health (MOH) implemented mandatory testing at airports for Sabah arrivals.
Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah told a press conference yesterday that 14-day quarantine was not imposed on Sabah arrivals, though he encouraged self-quarantine, because the same testing and quarantine system was previously used for returnees from the red zone of Kota Setar, Kedah. Only Sabah arrivals who tested negative at the airport, but have symptoms or close contact with a confirmed case, will be required to quarantine for a fortnight.
According to public health specialist and paediatrician Dr Tan Poh Tin, during the first four days of infection, even the gold standard RT-PCR test may miss a whopping 67 to 100 per cent of cases (100 per cent on the first day and up to 67 per cent on Day 4) because early swabs can fail to pick up infected cells when virus levels are low. She said that the test is most accurate from Day 5 (the typical time when symptoms appear) till Day 8 (three days after symptom onset).
SDMC reported four new Covid-19 cases today, two in Kuching and two in Miri, bringing the cumulative cases reported in Sarawak to 713 cases. Out of the four cases reported, three of them had a history of travel to Sabah. All four cases have been reported as imported cases.
Case 712 was a safety officer who was on duty for Sabah’s state elections. The officer left for Sabah on September 25 and returned to Sarawak on September 28 through the Royal Malaysian Airforce airport. All officers who returned from Sabah were instructed to undergo 14 days of quarantine and an RT-PCR test was conducted on them on the second day of quarantine. A repeat test will be done again on the 10th day.
The asymptomatic officer was detected positive with Covid-19 during the test that was done on the second day of quarantine, which was on September 29. So far, a total of 501 safety officers who have returned from their duty during the state elections in Sabah had undergone their first RT-PCR Covid-19 screening.
Sarawak reported another case (Patient 710), involving a Malaysian woman who returned from Kuala Lumpur to Miri on September 28. She had travelled to Kuala Lumpur on September 23.
The Sarawakian, who did not show symptoms, was detected with Covid-19 upon random screening at the Miri airport on September 28 for passengers who returned from outside Sarawak.
Kuching and Lawas are the only two districts in Sarawak with a yellow zone status, while 38 other districts remain green as there are still three local infected cases in Lawas and one case in Kuching in the last 14 days.