Increase in Covid-19 cases among madrasah, tahfiz students and staff

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

PUTRAJAYA: Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah voiced concern today over the Covid-19 situation among madrasah and tahfiz students, teachers and staff.

As of today, he said, six clusters involving madrasahs and tahfiz centres had been identified, four of which were sub-clusters of the Sri Petaling mosque tabligh convention cluster.

“To date, a total of 19,209 students, teachers and staff have been identified from 370 madrasah and tahfiz centres around the country,” he said at a press conference here.

He said samples were taken from 12,384 (64.5%) with 635 testing positive, 10,755 testing negative and 994 awaiting results.

“Based on these results, the positive rate for this group is 5.1%. A week ago (May 7, 2020), the positive rate for this group was 4.4%.”

He said the increase in positive rate was worrying as it showed a likelihood of a rise in infections within the group.

He added that of the 635 who tested positive, 539 (84.9%) showed no symptoms, which could lead to a spread of the virus if preventive measures are not taken.

As such, he said, the ministry had developed an action plan including for all madrasah and tahfiz students who had returned home to contact their nearest district health office, health clinic or public hospital for a Covid-19 test.

“Students who have not returned home are asked to remain at their madrasah or tahfiz centre and to contact their nearest district health office or health clinic for screening.”

He also encouraged the managements of the madrasah and tahfiz centres to contact their nearest district health office to provide information on their students and staff so that the ministry could carry out targeted activities.

“We are worried that those who are asymptomatic think they are healthy but could infect their friends and family, particularly the elderly, when they go back to their home towns,” he said, urging students, teachers and staff to come forward for testing.

Noor Hisham said 120 of the 370 madrasahs had links to the Sri Petaling mosque tabligh convention cluster.

“These were visited by the tabligh participants more than five times. Screening is still being carried out.”

He added that some 1,000 private madrasahs had yet to come forward for screening.

“We urge the management of these private madrasahs to contact us so that screening can be carried out.”

Noor Hisham said those who were returning for festivities must maintain social distancing and practise good hygiene, wear a mask if possible, avoid crowds and avoid physical contact even among family members.

He said the concern is that given the 85% rate of asymptomatic cases, the students carrying the virus could infect others, particularly the elderly.

“If possible, avoid visitations during Hari Raya.”

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