The Numbers Behind Sabah’s Deadly Third Covid-19 Wave

By Ashswita Ravindran | 02 December 2020

Sabah reported 214 Covid-19 deaths from Oct 1-Dec 1, comprising 59% of Malaysia’s total 363 fatalities from the beginning of the epidemic. About 43% (91 cases) of Sabah’s Covid-19 fatalities in the past two months were brought in dead.

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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 2 — Sabah has recorded over 27,000 coronavirus cases in the past two months and, in that same period, comprised 59 per cent of Malaysia’s cumulative Covid-19 deaths reported from the beginning of the epidemic in late January.

According to the Sabah Local Government and Housing Minister Masidi Manjun, 27,043 positive Covid-19 cases were reported in Sabah from October 1 till December 1. The third epidemic wave, which originated in Sabah and subsequently spread to the rest of the country, started in late September or early October.

This means that 40.3 per cent of the total 67,169 Covid-19 cases in Malaysia as of December 1 were reported in Sabah in just the past two months.

Meanwhile, 59 per cent (214 fatalities) of the nation’s total 363 Covid-19 deaths, recorded from the beginning of the Malaysian epidemic, were reported in Sabah alone, the country’s poorest state, within the past two months from October 1 to December 1.

A total of 91 cases, or 42.5 per cent, of Sabah’s 214 coronavirus deaths reported between October 1 and December 1 were brought in dead, which means these people died at home before they were brought to a hospital.

Malaysia generally sends everyone who tests positive for Covid-19 to hospital, even if they are not seriously ill. Sabahans have previously complained on social media about waiting for days to get sent to hospital or a quarantine centre after testing positive for the coronavirus, or waiting days for test results.

According to medical experts who previously spoke to CodeBlue, besides poverty, one of the reasons as to why Sabah patients are more ill is because Sabah has a large proportion of undocumented migrants who would be fearful to come forward. They will only seek medical treatment when they become really sick.

Sabah reported today 229 new Covid-19 cases, comprising 26.9 per cent of 851 fresh infections reported nationwide.

According to Masidi, 79.7 per cent, or 21,562 patients, of 27,043 Covid-19 cases reported in Sabah between October 1 and December 1 were Malaysians, while 20.3 per cent (5,481) were foreigners. More than half, or 56.7 per cent (15,343), of Sabah’s Covid-19 patients in that period were men, while 11,700 cases (43.3 per cent) were women.

“From this total, 5,919 individuals (21.9 per cent) were aged below 18 years old. Children below the age of 12 are 3,478 (12.9 per cent) and 234 (0.89 per cent) are below the age of one,” Masidi said during his press conference on Sabah’s Covid-19 cases today.

It is unclear as to why there has been a large proportion of children below the age of 12 getting Covid-19 infection, as they are not categorised as high-risk groups. It is also important to note that despite the high proportion of children contracting Covid-19 in Sabah, Science, Technology, and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said that children will not be getting the Covid-19 vaccine next year, saying that many pharmaceutical companies have not included children in their vaccine trials.

However, Masidi said today that he is not able to give information on the breakdown of Covid-19 cases in Sabah according to race.

“Honestly, when you talk about racial composition according to races, it’s not something that — I’m sorry — just saying this in a friendly way, normally Sabahans don’t categorise according to races,” Masidi said.

“Us in Sabah, we are all Sabahans, we are the same and we don’t talk about race or religion.”

CodeBlue had asked the minister for the racial breakdown of Covid-19 cases in Sabah, as countries like the United Kingdom and the United States publish their racial and ethnicity breakdowns of Covid-19 cases.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publishes Covid-19 hospitalisation and death by race or ethnicity under risk factors assessment in order to understand their access to health care, socioeconomic status etc.

By publishing data on racial or ethnic breakdown, high risk groups can be identified and health experts can share their professional thoughts on preventing the Covid-19 infections among these groups.

Moreover, Masidi said that he is unable to predict if the Covid-19 outbreak in Sabah will be over by the end of this year.

“The outbreak of Covid-19 in Sabah is not predicted when it will end and maybe it will continue until next year,” the Sabah Covid-19 spokesperson said.

When asked if the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) in Sabah will end on December 6, he said that this will depend on the analysis and assessment done by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the state health department.

“The decision on the extension or the ending of CMCO or implementation of any form of control will take into account the interest of all sectors, subject to the advice of MOH and the National Security Council,” Masidi said.

He urged Sabahans to adhere to the standard operating procedures and new norms to reduce Covid-19 infections.

Currently, Masidi said that Sabah does not require volunteers for contact tracing, like what is being done in Selangor. The period of contact tracing is within a day in Sabah and those who are identified as a close contact will be asked to get tested the next day or latest, by the day after.

“For close contact that is difficult to detect, especially among foreigners, it will take a few days to track. For now, volunteers are needed for screening and caring for patients,” Masidi said.

He pointed out that those who are involved in contact tracing will have to undergo a long period of training that has been given to medical officers, paramedics, and assistant health officers in the Ministry of Health’s Infectious Disease Control Unit.

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