Health authorities were not aware of tabligh convention until Brunei confirmed case

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah says sampling has been done on 6,700 attendees at the tabligh gathering. (Facebook pic)

PETALING JAYA: Health authorities were not aware that a tabligh convention involving some 14,000 people was held at the Sri Petaling mosque until Brunei confirmed its first Covid-19 case attended the event.

At a press conference today, health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the authorities began tracing and screening the attendees only after that case was confirmed.

“So far, we have been informed there were 14,500 local participants and 1,500 from 25 countries.

“We have managed to trace 11,000 of them and have done sampling on almost 6,700. Out of that, 820 are positive, which means one out of 10 is confirmed positive,” he said.

He said 62% of the total number of cases in the country are linked to the tabligh convention cluster, representing 820 out of the 1,306 cases to date.

“In the case of the tabligh convention, we did not think there was a spread of Covid-19 because we were not informed. We were only informed by my Brunei counterpart on March 9.

“The tabligh attendees have returned to their respective states and countries. We know they will gather in villages for prayers and maybe in the process, they will infect others, be it through handshakes or if a person who has Covid-19 sneezes.”

He said other gatherings such as Thaipusam had not come up with Covid-19 cases.

Noor Hisham said the ministry was now moving towards the mitigation stage, where it had a small window of opportunity to stop the transmission of the virus through the movement control order (MCO) and, hopefully, limit the chances of the virus spreading.

He said the ministry had managed to procure another 450 ventilators for patients requiring respiratory assistance.

It was also deploying nurses and medical officers from other states to areas with a high load of patients as well as rehiring retirees, including nurses and specialists, to assist during this period.

In addition, it was working with private hospitals and NGOs who had offered their expertise.

Noor Hisham also said there were 23 laboratories to test for Covid-19 nationwide, including private facilities.

“Every day, we can test 3,500 samples. Next week, we expect we can increase this to 7,000 a day, and by early April, 16,000 tests a day.”