First and foremost, I would like to record my deepest appreciation for the incredibly diligent and dedicated folks across the healthcare system in Malaysia who are doing a tremendous job in this very challenging period. Their work ethic and dedication to the cause are second to none.
From the medical professionals at the Subang Jaya Medical Centre (SJMC), to the doctors at Sungai Buloh Hospital, led by Dr Yasmin Mohd Ghani, who have been working extremely hard to treat my condition – as well as the conditions of all the other Covid-19 patients – to the officers at the health ministry, it has made me extremely proud to know that Malaysia has a wonderful healthcare system. In particular, I would like to especially commend Dr Muhammad Haikal Ghazali from the Selangor state health department and Dr Zaza Rida Zakiman from the Petaling district health office.
Next, I would like to take this opportunity to address some of the media reports that have been circulating with regards to my case, Case 26. I believe that it is important for me to share the facts regarding my particular circumstance so that the public has a clear picture of events.
On Feb 27, 2020, I started exhibiting symptoms, namely fever and a cough. That afternoon, I went to the SJMC outpatient centre to get myself tested as I was concerned that I had dengue fever. While there, I also specifically requested for the Covid-19 test. After doing the test, I went home and stayed home. On Feb 28, in the evening, I received my first round of test results stating that I had tested positive. I was then asked to proceed to Sungai Buloh Hospital on Feb 29 to be isolated and treated. It was there that my positive results were confirmed.
At that point, I was the 26th person in Malaysia to be tested positive for the Covid-19 disease, which does not necessarily mean that I was the 26th person in Malaysia to be infected by it. There were potentially others who had been infected earlier but not tested. Accordingly, I worked with Dr Haikal and Dr Zaza to come up with a contact tracing list, along with colleagues at UDA and at Khazanah. In addition, my family was also tested.
My family have all, Alhamdullilah, tested negative. It is hugely unfortunate that two individuals have caught Covid-19 from me, namely my driver at UDA as well as the SJMC paramedic who was treating me. They are, at present, being treated with the utmost care and professionalism from Malaysia’s healthcare professionals.
The second wave of Covid-19 cases in Malaysia are linked to me, that I think is clear. But being linked to me and having originated from me are two entirely different things. The health ministry is still working diligently and must be applauded for continuing to search for Patient Zero. I was at several meetings from Feb 21 to 27 with individuals who have since been confirmed positive for the Covid-19 disease. As I mentioned, the health ministry is still searching for Patient Zero. I just happened to be the first person who was tested from this string of meetings.
At the same time, it is worth noting that there were certain meetings on the morning of Feb 24 where all 13 non-UDA board and management individuals all tested negative. I also attended a ministry function in my capacity as chairman of UDA on Feb 27, but I would like to clarify that I did not attend any political functions. At this stage, I must also commend Dr Haikal and Dr Zaza for arranging a sizeable number of tests for those in UDA and Khazanah who were in close contact with me.
The next point I would like to touch on is my visit to Shanghai. I was in Shanghai attending a conference from Jan 13 to 17. There are two issues to raise here. Up to that point, the only confirmed cases in China were from the city of Wuhan, which I never visited. There was no suspicion, at that time, for any concern with regards to visiting Shanghai. Shanghai’s first recorded case was on Jan 20.
In Malaysia, on Jan 25, a week after I arrived home from Shanghai, the health ministry issued an advisory for Malaysia to postpone or avoid travel to China. On Jan 30, the World Health Organization, as a result of the novel coronavirus, officially declared a “public health emergency of international concern”. This all happened well after I returned from Shanghai.
The second issue is that all scientific and medical research we know so far points to the virus having a two-week incubation period. Given that I returned on Jan 17, and given that I exhibited symptoms on Feb 27, it is – as far as medical research is concerned – not possible for me to have obtained the virus from my trip to Shanghai.
Furthermore, the earliest close contact patients linked to me are from a meeting on Feb 21, five weeks after I returned. Unless new medical research tells us otherwise, it is important to keep the facts, as we know them now, clear: my visit to Shanghai is not linked to my positive confirmation.
To summarise, based on the facts that I have laid out, while it is true that I am linked to the second wave of cases, being linked to and being the source of are two entirely different things. We need to give our full support to the ministry as they identify Patient Zero. Next, given what medical research tells us, the incubation period for the virus is two weeks, and so, I did not catch it from my trip to Shanghai. Furthermore, at the time of my visit to Shanghai, there were no recorded cases there as yet.
Finally, I trust that we will all be guided by the facts as well as the exemplary work done by the entire medical professionals at the health ministry. I thank them all for their service to our country. I also call on the public to give them their full support, to use facts before spreading news or opinions, and to respect the confidentiality and privacy of individuals going through their recovery. I would like to also send out my prayers to all UDA staff and their families, as well as all other infected patients, whether in Malaysia or globally, that are still under treatment as I understand how difficult it is and wish them the speediest of recoveries.
Hisham Hamdan is chairman of UDA Holdings.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.