PUTRAJAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia's Covid-19 situation is seeing signs of escalating, with a surge in infections at a prison in Kedah state adding to the recent spike in cases involving Sabah.
The Health Ministry's director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah, who is himself under quarantine after being exposed to a Covid-positive Cabinet minister, has called on Malaysians to continue to fight the virus together.
"As we approach the 10-month mark of the Covid-19 pandemic, our lives and normalcy have been fundamentally disrupted," he said on his Twitter post on Tuesday (Oct 6).
"Controlling the large-scale community transmission is our top priority. We need strong solidarity and unity, together we can better fight this common enemy."
Total new cases reported in a day breached the 400 mark in Malaysia for the first time on Monday (Oct 5) to reach 432 - overtaking the record 317 cases reported on Saturday.
Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the bulk of the new cases were detected in Kedah (231) and Sabah (130) on Monday.
The so-called Tembok cluster in Kedah, centred on the Alor Setar prison, reported a total of 224 cases.
The cluster has so far accounted for 653 cases in recent days, with one fatality.
The prison in Alor Setar, the state capital of Kedah, has been placed under a targeted enhanced movement control order, or Temco, for 14 days.
During Temco, all prisoners and prison staff will be checked for Covid-19 exposure and family members of the prisoners are banned from visiting.
The spike in cases in Sabah was aggravated by the two-week election campaigning before the Sept 26 voting for state elections.
There is also an outbreak of the coronavirus at a detention centre in Sabah which houses illegal immigrants from the Philippines and Indonesia.
The Malaysian government announced on Tuesday that travel out of and into Sabah will be banned for two weeks from Wednesday (Oct 7). Only essential personnel or those with emergency cases will be allowed to travel.
Malaysian Bar president Salim Bashir on Tuesday said overcrowding in the lock-ups could worsen the situation and called on the authorities to consider releasing detainees who are being held for less serious crimes.
"Inmates are kept in packed spaces, which make physical distancing almost impossible, creating a hotbed for transmission of the virus," he said in a statement, as quoted by Malaysiakini news site.
"In the light of the severity of the current situation, the Malaysian Bar strongly calls for enforcement authorities to consider releasing detainees for less serious crimes on bail instead of keeping them in lock-ups," he said.
Other Malaysian states too have seen a sudden rise in cases, with most attributed to the return of thousands of election campaigners from Sabah, including Cabinet ministers who had continued with the public duties after they returned, instead of placing themselves on home quarantine.
Selangor on Monday recorded 34 new local cases, Kuala Lumpur seven, and Terengganu five.
Said Dr Noor Hisham: "This makes it a total of 235 Covid-19 cases since Sept 20 involving a travel history to Sabah."
Dr Noor Hisham is currently undergoing self-quarantine after attending a meeting which involved de facto Religious Affairs Minister Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri, who was confirmed to be Covid-19 positive on Monday.
Meanwhile, the number of patients in intensive care continues to rise with the increasing daily cases.
Dr Noor Hisham said 32 patients were being treated in intensive care units - up from 28 the previous day - with eight requiring ventilator support.
There are no new fatalities, keeping the country's Covid-19 death toll at 137.
A total of 57 patients were discharged.
Cumulatively, the total number of cases in the country since the outbreak began in January was 12,813 on Monday.