Malaysia's Pahang state records a surge in Covid-19 cases driven by new prison cluster

Overall, Malaysia on Tuesday reported 1,925 new coronavirus cases. PHOTO: REUTERS

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Malaysian Pahang state recorded a surge in Covid-19 cases after authorities detected a new cluster in a prison.

Health director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah said the Tembok Mempaga cluster in the Bentong district recorded 282 cases, which made up 98 per cent of the total 288 new cases in the state.

The Tembok Mempaga cluster in Pahang started with a person in the prison who was diagnosed positive on Dec 22. To date, 504 individuals have been screened.

Overall, clusters involving lockups, immigration detention depots, and prisons account for 307 of total new cases.

Overall, the country on Tuesday reported 1,925 new coronavirus cases, about half of them from the Klang Valley with the Selangor state in the lead.

Selangor recorded 747 cases, followed by Kuala Lumpur with 360 cases and Pahang, 288 cases.

"For now, we are monitoring 220 active clusters and 50 of them saw an increase in cases, " Dr Noor Hisham said.

With the new 1,925 cases, the cumulative total now stood at 108,615.

Two new fatalities were recorded involving a 65-year-old man in Putrajaya and a 68-year-old woman in Kelantan, pushing the country's death toll to 457.

Both victims had a history of hypertension, diabetes and chronic kidney disease.

The active Covid-19 cases now stood at 21,443.

Of the total cases yesterday, 10 were imported while the rest were local transmissions.

Currently, 117 people are warded in intensive care with 55 of them requiring ventilator support.

Meanwhile, as Covid-19 screening became mandatory for all foreign workers, employers have urged the Malaysian government to control the service fee imposed by clinics and hospitals for tests.

"Prices have gone up now that it's mandatory to test all foreign workers. With such a demand, businessmen take the opportunity to increase prices," said Real Estate and Housing Developers' Association Malaysia president Soam Heng Choon.

He said prices of the Antigen Rapid Test Kit (RTK) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests were cheaper before the screening requirement.

"The government should set price control to prevent unnecessary rush or profiteering."

Soam said RTK that used to cost between RM50 (S$16) and RM60 several months ago was now priced RM100 to RM120.

On Dec 1, the Social Security Organisation, Socso said it would provide RTK test kits for about 900,000 foreign workers, who are contributors to the body, for the Covid-19 screening programme.

However, employers will have bear the service fees set by panel clinics or hospitals registered under the programme.

Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Shamsuddin Bardan said Socso should also cover the service fee.

"The cost now varies from one panel to another. Covid-19 is recognised as an employment disease and as such Socso should bear the full cost of prevention and treatment of employees.

"It is critical for Socso to cover all costs related to the virus' prevention and treatment of employees as most employers faced financial difficulties throughout 2020, " he said.

The compulsory Covid-19 screening for foreign workers that was first announced for six high-risk states - Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Penang, Sabah and the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Labuan - was recently extended to the rest of the country.

On Nov 25, Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said Malaysia would impose mandatory Covid-19 screening for 1.7 million foreign workers.

On Dec 24, he said the National Security Council would enforce the compulsory Covid-19 screening under Act 342 (the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act) beginning Jan 1 so that action could be taken against employers who refused to have their workers tested.

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