106 new cases, 64 in ICU

A total of 1,624 Covid-19 cases have been reported so far nationwide.

PETALING JAYA: A total of 106 new Covid-19 cases have been recorded in the last 24 hours, lower than yesterday’s record high figure of 212 people.

This brings the total number of people infected with the deadly virus to 1,624 nationwide.

Among the new batch, 43 were traced to the tabligh gathering at the Sri Petaling mosque held late last month.

The remaining are from other clusters which are still under investigation.

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said 64 patients are currently being treated in the intensive care unit (ICU), with 27 cases needing respiratory assistance.

He said 24 patients have recovered, bringing the total number discharged so far to 183.

Earlier today, a 71-year-old man became the 15th Covid-19 victim to die from the virus.

The man was suffering from chronic illness, and was admitted to the Sultanah Fatimah Specialist Hospital in Muar on March 18. He was believed to have come in contact with those who attended the Sri Petaling mosque gathering.

Noor Hisham also urged the people not to stigmatise those who attended the tabligh gathering, where 60% of Covid-19 cases are linked to.

“Don’t blame tabligh members, don’t discriminate them, don’t stimagtise them. What’s important is tracing them and containing the spread of Covid-19,” he said.

He said 986 people from the tabligh convention have tested positive for Covid-19.

“These are the index case, they could have infected the first generation, their family members, the second generation – the family members – infecting their friends or neighbours for example, and the third generation – the neighbours – infecting other people.”

He said the government will publish a list of Covid-19 affected districts.

On blood donation at the national blood bank, Noor Hisham said while there was a shortage, less blood was being used as elective surgeries had been postponed.

However, he said the ministry was looking at how it could continue with the blood donation campaign, including the possibility of going house to house to obtain blood from donors.

On containing the spread of Covid-19, Noor Hisham said the success of the movement control order also depended on the cooperation of the people.

“What we want to do is break the chain of infection. Stay at home, wash your hands and you will help us break the transmission.”

He also said the ministry was increasing its laboratory capacity to test 16,500 samples for Covid-19 a week, and this was not far off from the 20,000 tests a day Korea was capable of doing.

“We will continue to test more people, detect more cases and take the infected people out of the community, then we may flatten the curve,” he said.

The ministry’s concern now, he said, was whether the limited capacity would be able to treat an exponential spike in cases, particularly if ventilators were needed.

Currently, only 27 of the 64 patients being treated in the ICU needed ventilators.

“We hope it doesn’t come to a stage when we have to decide which patient has ventilation and which does not,” he said.

Still, Noor Hisham said, the authorities were preparing for the worst case scenario by setting up an additional 3,400 beds and, if needed, convert training institutes to wards.

On whether the authorities needed to be more stern with those defying the MCO, he said: “We are trying to use the carrot first, I’ve been using the carrot for the past couple of weeks but perhaps it is time to use the stick. So the choice (belongs to) the public.”