82% Of Malaysia’s Active Covid Clusters Above 5% Positivity Rate

By Kanmani Batumalai | 03 December 2020

A positivity rate of above 5% in a locality or cluster indicates the possibility that more people infected with coronavirus in the community haven’t been tested yet.

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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 3 — Malaysia has 150 active Covid-19 clusters with above 5 per cent positivity rates, comprising a whopping 82 per cent of the country’s total 183 active clusters.

Thirteen active clusters, or 7.1 per cent of the total 183 active clusters reported nationwide as of December 2, have a positivity rate of more than 50 per cent, which means that more than one out of two people tested in those 13 clusters are infected.

Three of these clusters are located in the Klang Valley — all with above 70 per cent positivity rates — including the Teratai cluster linked to glove manufacturer Top Glove Corporation. Teratai is the largest cluster in Malaysia that has reported 5,083 positive cases out of 6,609 people screened as of yesterday, yielding a 76.9 per cent positivity rate.

The other 10 clusters with above 50 per cent positivity rates are located in Sabah that is still battling widespread Covid-19 outbreaks, more than two months after the third wave of the epidemic broke out in the country’s poorest state in late September or early October.

Among the 118 active Covid-19 clusters nationwide with a positivity rate of above 10 per cent, 43.2 per cent, or 51 clusters, are in Sabah, whereas 45 clusters (38.1 per cent) are in the Klang Valley, which has also spread to some other states. Only 22 of these 118 clusters, or 18.6 per cent, are located outside Sabah and the Klang Valley region of Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, and Putrajaya. The 118 clusters with a positivity rate of above 10 per cent form nearly two thirds, or 64.5 per cent of the country’s total 183 active clusters.

Sabah’s large proportion of coronavirus clusters with high positivity rates indicates that the virus is widespread in the community throughout the state, with any occasional dips in daily infections likely just a product of little testing, and not actual reduced Covid-19 transmission.

Only 33 active coronavirus clusters in Malaysia, or 18 per cent of the nation’s total 183 active clusters, show a positivity rate of below 5 per cent.

According to the United States’ John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the threshold for a Covid-19 positivity rate being “too high” is 5 per cent. A 5 per cent positivity rate means that five out of 100 people tested shows a positive result, or is infected with Covid-19.

Based on the John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, a high positivity rate of a locality or cluster indicates that only the sickest patients who seek medical attention are being tested for Covid-19 infection.

This also reflects the need to widen the number of screenings on a particular or affected cluster to identify virus spread in the community. The scenario of a high positivity rate also depicts the possibility that more people infected with coronavirus in the community haven’t been tested yet. A low positivity rate shows that testing capacity is adequate compared to the size of the outbreak.

In other words, the positivity rate of a cluster is pivotal to measure the current level of Covid-19 transmission in the community, and to identify if Malaysia’s Ministry of Health (MOH) is conducting enough testing. Covid-19 clusters, as defined in Malaysia, can be as small as two people — comprising the index case, the person first discovered with the virus in an outbreak, and a close contact.

Sabah has 10 active clusters with a positivity rate of more than 50 per cent, with the highest positivity rate in the Karamunting cluster (89.36 per cent). The Karamunting cluster was identified on November 11 after the index patient tested positive for Covid-19 on October 15 through a symptomatic screening. This cluster emerged from a sporadic case where the source of infection is yet to be found.

In Klang Valley, three clusters — Awan Baru construction site, Teratai and Perigi clusters — have recorded a positivity rate of more than 70 per cent. All three workplace clusters spread across more than 12 districts so far, with a total of 6,200 Covid-19 cases.

The Awan Baru construction cluster was identified on November 28 and now the cluster has 428 Covid-19 cases, including two new cases on December 2. This cluster has been classified as a workplace cluster as the index patient of this cluster was identified through a workplace screening.

As of yesterday, the Teratai cluster, with a 76.91 per cent positivity rate, has reported 5,083 positive Covid-19 cases. On November 25, the government closed 27 factories of Top Glove in Meru, which occupied 11,215 factory workers, to allow screening and quarantine of workers. An Enhanced Movement Control Order (EMCO) was also imposed on Top Glove workers’ hostels and nearby streets in Meru from November 17.

However, Top Glove executive chairman and founder Lim Wee Chai told a press conference on November 25 that the Teratai cluster did not just affect his company, but also factories operated by other companies.

Yesterday, Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah mentioned at a press conference that infections from the Teratai cluster have spread to the community, where contact tracing measures revealed that two generations of family members have been infected with Covid-19 under this cluster so far.

The Perigi cluster in the Klang Valley was detected on November 9 after the index patient of the cluster was confirmed with a Covid-19 infection on October 15. This cluster has a positivity rate of 70.09 per cent, with a total of 689 cases.

Recently, Dr Noor Hisham stated that the recent increase in cases amid the third wave of the Covid-19 epidemic was largely contributed by workplace clusters in the Klang Valley.

Next, a total of 22 active clusters in Malaysia have a positivity rate of between 30 and 50 per cent, with 11 clusters in Sabah and seven clusters in Klang Valley. The remaining four clusters are located in Labuan, Negeri Sembilan, and Perak.

Nine new cases were detected yesterday from five clusters under this category of clusters with a positivity rate of between 30 and 50 per cent.

In Malaysia, 14 clusters have a positivity rate between 25 and 30 per cent, comprising eight clusters in Selangor and five clusters in Sabah. One is located in Negeri Sembilan. So far all of the 14 clusters have registered 3,399 positive cases in the country.

From the total 16 clusters with a Covid-19 positivity rate between 20 and 25 per cent, eight clusters have been identified in Sabah and five clusters in the Klang Valley. The remaining three are in Labuan, Kedah, Perak, and Penang.

Yesterday, four new cases were detected from two clusters in Sabah — three in the Jalan Bomba cluster and one in PTS Sibuga cluster, whereas 57 cases were detected from two clusters in the Klang Valley — 33 cases in Kaya cluster and 24 in Desa Pinang cluster.

Besides the Klang Valley, the Kaya cluster also involved other states like Negeri Sembilan, Johor, Melaka, Kelantan and Perak. So far this cluster has reported 983 Covid-19 cases.

The Tembok cluster in Kedah and Perak reported 14 new cases yesterday, with a total of 2,269 cases so far.

Twenty-three clusters in Malaysia have a positivity rate between 15 and 20 per cent from the total of 183 active clusters.

Twelve clusters from this category have been registered in Klang Valley and six clusters in Sabah. The other five clusters are located in Penang, Johor, Kedah, and Perak.

Thirty active clusters in Malaysia have a positivity rate of between 10 and 15 per cent, with 11 clusters in Sabah and 10 clusters involving the Klang Valley. The remaining nine clusters are located in Labuan, Perak, Penang, Kedah, and Johor.

A total of 32 active clusters have a positivity rate of between 5 and 10 per cent.

Yesterday, MOH reported a total of 851 new Covid-19 cases nationwide, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 68,020. Of the 10,686 active Covid-19 cases, 122 patients are being treated in the intensive care unit including 47 under ventilator support.

Yesterday, the country registered two more deaths bringing the Covid-19 death toll to 365.

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