Half Of Penang Covid-19 Cases Sporadic, One-Third From Factories

By Boo Soon Yew | 11 May 2021

About 55% of 7,797 Covid-19 cases in Penang reported from March 19-May 9 this year are not linked to any cluster; 34% came from factory clusters.

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GEORGE TOWN, May 11 — As Penang started another lockdown under the Movement Control Order (MCO) on May 10, 2021, it would be good to have a baseline look at the available data so far.

Covid-19 cases from March 19, 2021 to May 9, 2021 totalled 7,797. The cases attributed to the 29 clusters declared in that period was 3,478. This makes up 44.6 per cent of total cases, keeping the remaining 55.4 per cent as unlinked.

Looking at the 44.6 per cent that make up the 29 new clusters, 13 are from factories, two from detention centres, eight from schools, two from construction sites, three from the community and one from an office.

In fact, the number of cases from factories was naturally the majority among the cluster, totalling 2,616 (75.2 per cent) with detention centres forming another big group of 484 (13.9 per cent), and schools, construction sites, offices and the community making up the rest.

This gives credence to the perennial fear of outbreaks originating in factories. However, we must also not ignore the fact that there are 4,319 unlinked cases, and these make up an equally significant 55.4 per cent of total cases in the last seven weeks.

Penangites are concerned about the more-than-300 cases recorded from May 6 to 8, culminating in a record high of 280 on May 9.

We hit previous highs back in October 2020 with a daily caseload of 189 (a record then on October 17, 2020).  But these cases were localised mainly at the Penjara Reman Pulau Pinang cluster. Soon after, another prison cluster was the main contributor, namely the Penjara Seberang Perai cluster.

By November 2020, the numbers seemed to have stabilised, with regular two-digit new cases daily, until the factory clusters emerged, namely Bayan, Intan and Beringin. This briefly brought back memories of the dire situations in Mukim 13 (Daerah Timur Laut) and Mukim 12 (Daerah Barat Daya). Yet, steady two-digit increases were the daily norm until the end of December 2020.

However, Penangites had a rude awakening on January 1 and 2, 2021, when a sudden spike of new cases totalling 226 and 288 respectively occurred. There were rumours that the cases originated from construction sites, yet there was no official announcement of new clusters except for Rawa Akasia at Seberang Perai Selatan.

In fact, from January 1 to March 18, there were 54 days of daily new cases exceeding 100, with only 23 days below 100, the lowest being 55 cases on January 4. The highs reached were 337 and 317 cases on March 4 and January 12 respectively. There were eight days when more than 200 cases were recorded, while 150 to 200 cases were recorded on another 14 days.

Hence, we were used to seeing three-figure cases throughout the early months of 2021. Of course, when May came around, there were sudden peaks of 305, 313 and 363 (the record high so far) on May 6, 7 and 8, which justified the implementation of another MCO to attempt to contain transmission.

The data clearly shows that the majority of cases are in the community at large, and do not make up part of any cluster originating from factories, schools, construction sites or detention centres.

These cases (55.4 per cent since March 19, 2021) are not linked to any cluster, which means there will be many people who have had close contact with the patients. The onus will be on these close contacts to do their part to undergo testing and self-quarantine.

On the other hand, we must be equally diligent to do our part in fighting the transmission. Remember to mask up, as it protects not only ourselves but also others. Remember to wash our hands regularly before going out and after coming home. Remember to practise social distancing, and if we need to remind others, why not? There have been many instances when individuals in queues who do not feel the need to distance themselves.

Finally, whenever we have symptoms, we must visit a doctor, and if need be, take a Covid-19 test.

May we go through this latest MCO with a determination to set things right. If things are not achieved from the top down, at least we can do our part from the bottom up.

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