Malaysia's asymptomatic Covid-19 patients to isolate at home first as worker cases surge

Malaysia has stepped up the testing of foreign workers for Covid-19.
Malaysia has stepped up the testing of foreign workers for Covid-19.PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia is advising people who have tested positive for the coronavirus but have no Covid-19 symptoms to self-isolate at home first, as cases involving foreign workers are surging.

These asymptomatic patients should keep in contact with their district health offices.

The Health Ministry's director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said these patients may not be taken to hospitals immediately, as the healthcare system is overloaded, Malay Mail online news reported him as saying on Monday (Dec 28).

Malaysia is grappling with logistical issues such as the ferrying of people to hospitals and a high number of foreign workers being tested and found to have Covid-19.

"We are talking about more than 1,000 cases a day. This is because of increased testing among foreign workers, and as expected more cases being diagnosed," Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham said, as quoted by Malay Mail.

"Foreign workers have no place to be isolated in... We have thousands here. We are increasing the number of (hospital) beds to 10,000."

Dr Noor Hisham said around 89 per cent of Covid-19 patients in Malaysia are asymptomatic or showing mild symptoms.

He gave assurance that there are still beds available for patients, despite the delay in transfers lately. Hospitals in Selangor — which has high infections rates in recent weeks — has only reached 59 per cent of their bed capacity, he said.

"The delay is due to the increase in positive cases. It might take a day or two or even longer. This is mainly in the Klang Valley," he said.

Malaysia has stepped up the testing of foreign workers for Covid-19.

Enforcement on the mandatory Covid-19 screening for foreign workers will start from Jan 1 - only for the six high-risk states and federal territories, said Human Resources Minister M. Saravanan, The Star daily reported.

These states comprise Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Penang and Sabah, along with the federal territories of Kuala Lumpur and Labuan, involving some 800,000 foreign workers.

For other states, mass testing on foreign workers will start after February next year.

Datuk Seri Saravanan said that as at Sunday, a total of 68,460 foreign workers had been screened, involving 2,385 employers, according to The Star.

The authorities have been intensely checking on foreign-worker accommodation in the last few weeks and issuing fines on companies including glovemakers for housing the migrants in cramped and poor conditions, that have partly caused the spread of Covid-19.

Malaysia recorded 1,196 new coronavirus infections on Sunday, according to Malay Mail. It currently has 20,233 active Covid-19 cases.

Malaysia last Saturday logged a record high number of daily cases since the start of the pandemic, with 2,335 infections. Kuala Lumpur made up the largest share – 31.2 per cent – of the new infections, with 728 cases. This was followed by Selangor with 710 cases and Johor with 412 cases.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry has doubled the number of beds at a government quarantine and treatment centre in Serdang in Selangor - located at the edge of Kuala Lumpur - to more than 6,000 due to the rising number of Covid-19 cases. The centre is at the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang or MAEPS.

"The capacity of beds at MAEPS 2.0 has been increased by 3,032 to a total of 6,132," the ministry tweeted on Monday. It said the capacity of beds at the centre could be further raised to 10,000 beds, if required.

"Deputy health director-general Datuk Dr Rohaizat Yon (medical) said the opening of a new hall in MAEPS follows the increase in Covid-19 cases," the ministry said.

The MAEPS quarantine centre was activated from April 16 to July 15 and had cared for 1,362 patients, the majority of whom were non-Malaysians.

On Dec 9, Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said that the centre would be re-activated following an increase in Covid-19 cases among foreign workers.