Archive for August, 2020

11 new Covid-19 cases including 3 linked to Kurau cluster

Monday, August 10th, 2020
(File pic) The Health Ministry recorded 11 new Covid-19 cases as of noon August 10, 2020, bringing the cumulative total of infections in Malaysia to 9,094. Photo by AMRAN HAMID/NSTP(File pic) The Health Ministry recorded 11 new Covid-19 cases as of noon August 10, 2020, bringing the cumulative total of infections in Malaysia to 9,094. Photo by AMRAN HAMID/NSTP

PUTRAJAYA: The Health Ministry recorded 11 new Covid-19 cases as of noon today, bringing the cumulative total of infections in Malaysia to 9,094.

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said of the 11 new cases, five are imports involving Malaysians who returned from Australia (three cases in Selangor), Japan (one in Kuala Lumpur) and Singapore (one in Johor).

“There are six local transmission cases, five of whom are Malaysians.

“One is a non-citizen who was screened at their work place in Selangor, and was asymptomatic, and has been admitted to the Sungai Buloh Hospital in Selangor,” he said during a press conference at the ministry today.

The five local cases involving Malaysians are three linked to the Kurau cluster in Perak; and one in Johor, who is a pre-operation patient screened at a private hospital, and was sent to the Enche Besar Hajjah Kalsom Hospital.

The fifth case, said Dr Noor Hisham, is an asymptomatic patient in Melaka who was tested before admission to a ward at a private hospital, and has since been admitted to the Melaka Hospital.

There is one positive case that is being treated in the Intensive Care Unit. The patient does not require breathing assistance.

Dr Noor Hisham said no new fatality was reported today, and the death toll stands at 125.

He added that 19 patients recovered today and were discharged from hospital.

By Dawn Chan.

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Kurau cluster grows, with 3 more cases detected, including toddler

Monday, August 10th, 2020
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said  reminded the public that although visits are now allowed, standard operating procedures, including observing physical distancing, must be adhered to. BERNAMA photoHealth director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said reminded the public that although visits are now allowed, standard operating procedures, including observing physical distancing, must be adhered to. BERNAMA photo

KUALA LUMPUR: The Kurau cluster in Perak has grown, with three new Covid-19 cases, including a toddler, detected over the last 24 hours.

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the cases were discovered during active case detection and close contact tracing in Perak and Penang.

“They are family members of the first case in the Kurau cluster, known as Case-9050, involving a younger sibling, an in-law and a 2-year-old nephew.

“Case-9050 had close contact with the three new cases during a Hari Raya Aidiladha visit on July 30. The nephew developed a fever and flu after that day (July 30).

“The younger sibling and the in-law, however, are asymptomatic. We are still investigating the cause of the infection,” he said during a press conference at the ministry today.

Dr Noor Hisham added that the trio was admitted to the Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital in Perak.

He said 125 individuals linked to the cluster have been screened. Five tested positive, 112 were negative, and eight more are awaiting results.

He said the Kurau and Sivagangga clusters, which have caused a spike in cases in Malaysia in recent days, emerged due to recent festive visits.

“The majority of positive cases in the clusters involve family members who are senior citizens and children, aged between 2 and 70,” he said.

Dr Noor Hisham reminded the public that although visits are now allowed, standard operating procedures, including observing physical distancing, must be adhered to.

He also advised those who are unwell or have Covid-19 symptoms to refrain from taking part in gatherings.

By Dawn Chan.

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New clusters in Kurau and Meranti

Monday, August 10th, 2020

PETALING JAYA: Two new clusters have been identified as the country records 13 new Covid-19 cases, says the Health director-general.Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah (pic) said the new clusters were the Kurau cluster and the Meranti cluster.

With 13 new cases recorded yesterday, he said they brought the total in the country to 9,083 cases.

Of the 13, nine were imported cases while the rest were local transmissions, he noted.

The nine imported cases consisted of five Malaysians and four foreigners.

In the local transmission cases, Dr Noor Hisham said three were from Penang – two from the Sivagangga cluster and one from the Kurau cluster.

He added that the fourth case of local transmission was detected in Putrajaya from the Meranti cluster.

In the Kurau cluster, Dr Noor Hisham said to date, two positive cases had been detected.

He said the first case in the Kurau cluster was Case 9,050 which was reported on Aug 7.

The second case was the brother-in-law of this case who was detected as a result of active case detection and close contact screening.

“The brother-in-law and his family in Penang were tested.

“On Aug 9, the individual was found to be positive for Covid-19 but five of his family members who have been tested so far are negative, ” he said in a statement yesterday.

Dr Noor Hisham said that currently, 115 close contacts of the individual had been tested – 106 were negative while nine others were awaiting their results.

Meanwhile, in the Meranti cluster, Dr Noor Hisham said it originated from Case 9,083, a health worker who tested positive for Covid-19 on Aug 8.

“The individual was a close contact of Case 8,968, a Covid-19-positive patient who was detected in a pre-operation screening.

“Upon further investigation, Case 8,968 had a history of seeking treatment at a healthcare facility in which Case 9,083 was working.

“Based on the close contact screening and active case detection that is currently underway, 15 individuals have so far been tested, ” he said.

Dr Noor Hisham added that the cause of the infection in the Meranti cluster was still under investigation.

Separately, in the Sivagangga cluster, Dr Noor Hisham said as of noon yesterday, 4,636 people had been screened.

Of the total, 45 people, he said, had tested positive.

Thirty-one of them were detected in Kedah, 11 in Perlis and three in Penang.

“Close contact screening and active case detection activity is still underway.

“Preventive measures such as disinfection and decontamination of areas that have been identified in this cluster are being carried out, ” he added.

Of the 9,083 cumulative total infections in the country, 174 of them are active cases, with one receiving treatment in the intensive care unit.

Nine patients have been discharged, bringing the total discharged to 8,784 cases.

Dr Noor Hisham added that no deaths were recorded, keeping the death toll at 125 cases.


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Let’s build resilience in kids

Monday, August 10th, 2020
Parents must ensure children stay joyful and happy. FILE PICParents must ensure children stay joyful and happy. FILE PIC

LETTERS: Recently, I received news from my son, who is abroad, that his varsity mate had hanged himself in the dormitory.In the same evening, I heard from a retired colleague that one of her grandchildren’s friends, who was only 12, took his life by jumping off a high rise in the United States.

In our own country, a young adult, who was an all-rounder, ended his life recently. It is disturbing that young people who had the world ahead of them resorted to such an act. My concern is what we teach in school and at home to ensure that children, adolescents and young adults do not think of ending their lives.

Do we teach our students to appreciate life and nature? Do we instil resilience in children from young? Do we talk about life and death to the younger generation?

I did a course on “Health and Disease” at the Faculty of Medicine at Universiti Malaya during my undergraduate days. A senior professor lectured that we could not plan our birth, but we could plan to die in dignity. Dignity, according to him, is to live a full-fledged life based on where we started right up to a happier position later in old age.

I think it is important to educate children from young about life and death and not instil hopelessness in them, as each of them has his life journey to lead.

The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us to appreciate the simple things in life, such as valuing time, learning to be silent and saying positive things. If we have to reprimand someone, do it constructively.

Many a time, we think that only adults go through stress in life, having to juggle between work, home and social responsibilities. Even a young child at home may undergo stress, but quite often it is not addressed.

Worse still is when individuals do not show any sign of stress and suddenly end up leaving the world. It is all very personal.

For a start, schools should stop focusing on exams and grades, at least during this Covid-19 pandemic, and instead concentrate on the wellbeing of students.

Media and social media platforms should focus on humour and joyful living rather than just on economy and finance. Yes, money is important, but it cannot buy happiness, or take away stress or bring back a lost life. Teachers and parents play a key role in ensuring that children and students are always happy and cheerful.

Many simple yet effective activities can be carried out together as a family or as a class while still adhering to physical distancing. The Covid-19 pandemic has taught us a great deal about resilience, having hope and accepting the challenges of a new normal.

In the meantime, let us educate ourselves and our children and students to stay joyful and happy.

by Dr Vishalache Balakrishnan.

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Understanding highly spreadable Covid-19 mutants

Monday, August 10th, 2020
On Aug 6, Health director-general Datuk  Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah mentioned the possibility of the Sivagangga cluster viruses having what is referred to as the D614G mutation, referring to a mutation in the sequence of the spike protein at position number 614. - NSTP /AMRAN HAMID On Aug 6, Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah mentioned the possibility of the Sivagangga cluster viruses having what is referred to as the D614G mutation, referring to a mutation in the sequence of the spike protein at position number 614. – NSTP /AMRAN HAMID

THERE’S no escaping the pervasive imagery of the ball-like shape we know as Covid-19, also known as SARS-CoV-2. The virus’ physical shape serves the sole purpose of delivering the genetic payload contained within, referred to as a genome, to the next host.

Once inside, the virus hijacks the host cells to make more viruses using the information encoded in the genome — the total genetic content of an organism. All livings things have a genome, and although viruses are not considered alive, they too have genomes.

The SARS-CoV-2 genome is composed of a chemical substance called RNA, very similar to DNA that we are more familiar with because the majority of organisms use DNA as the constituents of their genomes. The information encoded within the genome can be extracted by a process called genome sequencing.

This process generates large amounts of data in the form of the letters A, C, G and T, which are strung along in various combinations. Each letter is referred to as a nucleotide, the basic unit of a genome.

The genome of SARS-CoV-2 contains nearly 30,000 nucleotides. Humans have more than three billion nucleotides, many bacteria will have millions. The 30,000 or so nucleotides contain the information for synthesising about 30 proteins (as a comparison, humans have over 20,000 proteins).

In general, the genomes are analysed to identify variations, sometimes termed as mutations, also used to track the genetic footprint left behind by the virus as it transmits from host to host. Analysis of the variations can reveal the potential effects of the mutations on the virus’ capacity to infect its host and cause disease.

At the time of writing, more than 78,000 SARS-CoV-2 genomes have been sequenced the world over and deposited in a publicly accessible database — GISAID (Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data) — including about 100 genomes from Malaysia.

It was the discovery of a specific mutation profile that led scientists to classify Covid-19 as a newly discovered (novel) coronavirus, distinct from its genetic cousin, SARS. Mutations point to SARS-CoV-2 being more adept at invading the human host, making it more transmissible than SARS.

On Aug 6, Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah mentioned the possibility of the Sivagangga cluster viruses having what is referred to as the D614G mutation, referring to a mutation in the sequence of the spike protein at position number 614.

This mutation first emerged in Europe in February, and peer-reviewed research regarding the mutation was published in the journal Cell last month. That paper reported that there are now more Covid-19 cases carrying the G614 mutation than the original D614, suggesting that G614 is more infectious and spreading faster.

Of the genomes sequenced here, the D614G mutation has been detected in nine. These highly transmissible mutants are already on our shores. Malaysians must therefore adhere to the procedures in place. Complacency may lead to us being overwhelmed by these highly spreadable mutants.

It is still not understood why this molecular-level change results in a more infectious variant of the virus. Recently published studies in Nature and Science suggest that individual genetics play a role in the severity of the disease, brought about by the different ways an individual’s immune system is responding to the virus infection.

For severe cases, the evidence points to the immune system going overboard in responding to an infection, akin to the Malay proverb “marahkan nyamuk, kelambu dibakar“. Since the immune system is not able to figure out the appropriate response to eliminate the virus, it throws everything in its arsenal to rid the body of the invaders, resulting in more harm than good.

This points to the genetics and environmental circumstances of the individual hosts as being crucial factors that determine how each body responds to the infection or is affected by the virus. Therefore, the obvious next course of investigation to understand Covid-19 is to understand what sets all these individuals apart.

To do that, scientists would have to gather massive amounts of data that include genome sequences of individuals who have succumbed to Covid-19 together with those who have survived and are asymptomatic as comparisons.

The writer is a bioinformatician at the Department of Applied Physics, Faculty of Science and Technology, and Institute of Systems Biology, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, and current president of the Malaysian Society for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology.

By Dr Mohd Firdaus Raih.

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Insist on strictly sustainable development of ocean resources

Monday, August 10th, 2020
Malaysia, as a key member of the Group 77 and China, the negotiating group of developing countries in the UN, regards the oceans as a “Common Heritage of Humankind”.Malaysia, as a key member of the Group 77 and China, the negotiating group of developing countries in the UN, regards the oceans as a “Common Heritage of Humankind”.

“THE oceans are our great laboratory for the making of a new international order, based on new forms of international cooperation and organisation, on new economic theory, on a new philosophy.” That’s the view of internationally renowned ocean law and policy expert, Elisabeth Mann Borgese, an expert in maritime and environmental protection, who died in 2002 in her 80th year.

Nearly two-thirds of our oceans are beyond national jurisdiction — in which no single state has authority. These cover 45 per cent of Earth’s surface, plunge to depths of more than 10km and represent 95 per cent of Earth’s total habitat by volume.

They contain vast riches of biological and inorganic resources and produce half of our life-giving oxygen. They constitute the world’s largest long-term carbon sink and largest reservoir of genetic resources, including many used as medicine for cancer, for example, and others with major commercial and industrial applications.

With no government in charge, these “Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction” are overexploited, polluted and degraded, and the few laws in place to protect them are often weak and poorly enforced. In 1982, the United Nations adopted the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). It took 12 years for the convention to enter into force, but represents, in effect, a “constitution for the oceans” — laying down a comprehensive regime of law and order in the world’s oceans.

It spells out the right of states with respect to oceans to navigate, fly over, fish, research, lay submarine cables and pipelines, construct artificial islands and more, balancing freedom with responsibility. But ever faster ships and refrigeration have enabled exploitation of deeper and more distant areas, resulting in an increasing loss of biodiversity and depletion of fish stocks.

Today, a growing body of scientific research has documented that we are nearing the oceans’ ecological limits. The short-sighted era of the “freedom of the seas” is over, or should be. Certainly, the oceans are increasingly regulated. In addition to UNCLOS, the Convention on Biological Diversity and other international and regional agreements now address fisheries, marine pollution and conservation.

But they do not yet adequately address all ocean uses, such as biological prospecting and new ideas about climate change mitigation techniques, which demand detailed international rules and standards. Another issue is equity in access to deep resources that belong to all humanity.

Deep-sea expeditions and explorations involve sophisticated research vessels, instrumentation, submersibles and remotely operated vehicles — all representing huge financial costs and technologies available only to affluent developed countries.

This issue is easily seen in the patents associated with marine resources used in pharmaceuticals, enzymes and other products based on deep-sea organisms. The leaders among those patent holders are the United States, Germany, Japan, and a handful of other countries with access to the required technologies.

They reap the financial rewards, enabling further investments into discoveries. Bottom line: without serious investment in capacity building and technology transfer, income gaps will widen further with time.

UNCLOS, sadly, was drafted before the exploitation of genetic resources in the deep sea was foreseen. As a result, it is unclear in that convention if, like fish in the water column, such resources are subject to the “freedom of the high seas” regime. Or are genetic resources, like seabed minerals, subject to the “common heritage of mankind” regime.

A major step was taken in December 2017 when the UN, after more than a decade of discussions, agreed to convene negotiations on an International Legally Binding Instrument under UNCLOS on the conservation and sustainable use of Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction.

The negotiations began in 2018 and continued through 2019, then were derailed this year by the Covid-19 pandemic. Negotiations focus on marine genetic resources (including benefit sharing), area-based management tools (including Marine Protected Areas), environmental impact assessments, and capacity building and technology transfer.

Malaysia, as a key member of the Group 77 and China, the negotiating group of developing countries in the UN, regards the oceans as a “Common Heritage of Humankind”. In these critical negotiations, we must argue in favour of strictly sustainable development of these resources, that the oceans be reserved for exclusively peaceful purposes, and that benefits from these global commons be shared equitably, with particular consideration for the needs of the poor.

The writer is a senior fellow of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia. This article is based on a keynote address at the Institute of Oceanography and Environment, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, on July 27.

By Zakri Abdul Hamid.

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Covid-19: Another school in Kuala Sanglang closed for two weeks

Sunday, August 9th, 2020

KANGAR (Bernama): Another school in Kuala Sanglang has been ordered to close for two weeks by the Perlis state education department following the enforcement of the targeted enhanced movement control order (MCO) since Saturday (Aug 8) night.

Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Azlan Man said the third school ordered to be closed was SJKC Chin Hun.

“The closure of all three schools for two weeks from tomorrow, namely Aug 10 to Aug 23, involves a total of 876 students and 112 teachers, ” he said in his Facebook page Sunday (Aug 9).

Yesterday, Bernama reported that the state education department had ordered two other schools to be closed, namely SK Kuala Sanglang and SMK Kuala Sanglang.

Azlan added that the teachers involved were required to undergo a Home Isolation Order (HIO) during the period.

Meanwhile, a total of 15 Form Six students from SMK Syed Alwi residing in two villages involved in the targeted enhanced MCO – Kampung Tanah Timbul and Kampung Kuala Sanglang – who will be sitting for examinations from Aug 12, have been provided with temporary accommodation at the school’s hostel and other alternative accommodation nearby, he said.

The Perlis state government has implemented the targeted enhanced MCO at the two villages for 28 days beginning 10pm last night, to curb the spread of Covid-19.

As of yesterday, Perlis had recorded 30 cases of Covid-19, including 11 recent cases from the Sivagangga cluster which started in Napoh, Kubang Pasu, Kedah. -

by Bernama

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13 new Covid-19 cases; two new clusters detected

Sunday, August 9th, 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry recorded 13 new Covid-19 cases today, raising the tally of infections in the country to 9,083.

In a statement, Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said four of the transmissions are local – three in Penang and one in Putrajaya.

“In Penang, two cases are linked to the Sivangangga cluster and one to the Kurau cluster,” he said, adding that the single case in Putrajaya was from the Meranti cluster.

Both the Kurau and Meranti clusters are new, said Dr Noor Hisham.

The first case of the Kurau cluster (Case-9050) was reported on Aug 7, while the second case (Case-9082) is a brother-in-law to the first case, who was traced thanks to active case detection and close contact screening.

“Following that, the whole family in Penang was also screened. On Aug 9, the patient tested positive, while five other family members tested negative.

“To date, 115 close contacts have been screened. Of the total, 106 are negative and nine are still awaiting test results.

“Active case detection and close contact screening are ongoing,” said Dr Noor Hisham.

On the new Meranti cluster, Dr Noor Hisham said it was detected when Case-9083, a health officer, tested positive for Covid-19 on Aug 8.

He said the patient was in contact with Case-8968, who tested positive in a pre-surgery screening, reported on July 31.

“After investigating, it was found that Case-8968 had a history of receiving treatment at a health facility where Case-9083 was on duty.”

The source of the infection is still being investigated, he added.

Meanwhile, Dr Noor Hisham said the nine remaining new Covid-19 cases are imported and involve five Malaysians and four foreigners.

He said the imported cases are from China (two cases in Kuala Lumpur); India (two cases in Kuala Lumpur; Japan (one in Kuala Lumpur and one in Selangor); Ireland (one in Kuala Lumpur); Indonesia (one in Kuala Lumpur); and Yemen (one in Sarawak).

As of noon today, the total number of active cases stands at 174.

Dr Noor Hisham added that nine patients have been cured and discharged from hospitals, and no new fatalities were recorded.

By Hana Naz Harun.

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White wristband gives away quarantine violator

Sunday, August 9th, 2020

BALIK PULAU: He thought people would not be bothered by his wristband, but they were.

A man, who is supposed to quarantine himself at home for 14 days after he was suspected to have come into contact with a local Covid-19 cluster, sneaked out to visit a fair in SPICE Convention Centre on Friday.

He was wearing a white hospital wristband and did not think anyone would react to it.

One of the exhibitors at the fair spotted the wristband and called the police without hesitation at 5.45pm, said Balik Pulau OCPD Supt A. Anbalagan.

“The man left the booth when he realised the exhibitor saw his wristband,” he said in a statement.

A team of police officers went to the fair in a flash and, shortly after, found the 42-year-old man and arrested him.

Supt Anbalagan said the man was supposed to fulfil his 14-day home quarantine and attend a follow-up screening on Aug 10.

He tested negative for Covid-19 the first time.

The man lives in Ayer Itam, Penang, and works in a factory in Kulim, Kedah.

Supt Anbalagan said the man violated the quarantine order of Regulation 10 of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (Measures within Infected Local Areas) Regulations 2020.

He said the man was taken to the Bayan Baru police station, where he was issued a compound of RM1,000.

Supt Anbalagan urged the public to quickly call the police if they spot possible violators of home quarantine.

Pink wristbands are issued to persons under investigation (PUI) who return from overseas.

White ones are worn by PUI of local clusters.

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Shafie instructs Sabah AG to take action for slander

Sunday, August 9th, 2020

TAWAU: Caretaker Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal wants legal action to be taken against an NGO that alleged that Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Juhar Mahiruddin had accepted an inducement in dissolving the state legislative assembly.

Shafie said he had instructed the state Attorney General to take action as the allegation not only involved him but also those present during the meeting with Juhar, before the dissolution of the state assembly was announced.

“That is malicious because during the meeting with Tun Juhar, the state Attorney General was also present,” he told a press conference after the handing-over ceremony of 67 new houses and 308 land titles to fire victims in Kampung Tanjung Batu Otentik and land titles in Tawau and Kalabakan yesterday.

He said also present at the meeting were Deputy Chief Ministers Datuk Christina Liew and Datuk Jaujan Sambakong as well as Sindumin assemblyman Datuk Dr Yusof Yacob.

He was commenting on the complaint lodged by the chairman of Gerakan Kuasa Rakyat Malaysia (G57) Datuk Zulkarnain Mahdar with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission alleging that Juhar’s move to dissolve the Sabah state assembly was as a return of favour for Shafie to extend his term as governor.

Elaborating, Shafie said that at the meeting, he only advised Juhar to consider the dissolution based on the current political situation in the state.

“I was just advising, I have no right to dissolve the state assembly,” he said.

On July 30, Shafie announced the dissolution of the state legislative assembly thus paving the way for fresh polls to be held.

A day earlier, former Sabah chief minister Tan Sri Musa Aman announced he had obtained a simple majority to form a new state government.

On another matter, Shafie, who is Parti Warisan Sabah president, welcomes any cooperation with the new party formed by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

He said the cooperation may turn out fruitful if it is in line with Warisan’s struggles concerning the people and the state.

He said this at the event when asked to respond to Dr Mahathir’s announcement on Friday on the formation of a new party which is not aligned to either Pakatan Harapan or Perikatan Nasional.

by Bernama.

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