Dialysis centres, supermarkets, fitness centres, workplaces and a wedding: Covid-19 now deeply embedded in society

Danial Dzulkifly
·6-min read
People are seen calmly shopping for provisions on the eve of MCO 2.0 here at a supermarket in Bayan Baru January 12, 2021. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
People are seen calmly shopping for provisions on the eve of MCO 2.0 here at a supermarket in Bayan Baru January 12, 2021. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 14 — Public officials are in a race against time to reverse the tide of Covid-19 infections in Malaysia now that the virus has penetrated deeply into the local community.

Yesterday’s announcement of 488 positive cases from 11 new clusters across seven states shows how far it has reached.

Most of the Covid-positive cases within the clusters appeared to have contracted the virus while at work. An example of this yesterday was the Jalan Ijuk cluster in Selangor involving a factory.

But there was also the Jalan Kasturi cluster in Kuala Lumpur, involving a security company. If the company’s workers, presumably security guards, were the ones to contract the virus and were not aware of it until tested as they might have been asymptomatic and carried on with their work wherever they were stationed, perhaps in an office block or even in a condominium, imagine where else Covid-19 could have travelled.

If this were a TV series like CSI, where special effects could be employed to show the fingerprints left behind by the infected, then perhaps Malaysians may be horrified by Covid-19’s trail of destruction.

A wedding in Kampung Tengah, Negri Sembilan was disclosed to be the epicentre of another cluster yesterday as well with 20 attendees found positive to date. It is unclear if they were the wedding guests or perhaps caterers or others hired for the celebration. For the bride and groom, this joyous occasion will forever be connected with the memory of illness although if they are positive thinkers, they may see it as passing the first trial of their marriage from the get go — taking each other in sickness and in health.

And then there are clusters that have formed in places where people have sought wellness.

Yesterday, the Health Ministry announced a new cluster arising from one dialysis centre in Melaka. Thirteen people tested positive for Covid as of yesterday and the Malim dialysis cluster, as it has been dubbed, has seen the virus spread to the Alor Gajah and the Melaka Tengah district.

Similar clusters have formed at two other dialysis centres in the capital. The Batu dialysis centre involving patients from Titinwangsa, Cheras and Kepong district in Kuala Lumpur is one. The other is the Putra dialysis centre in Putrajaya.

Let’s not forget the rash of fitness centres and gyms that had to temporarily shut due to Covid-19 after some instructors and their clients tested positive.

A cluster also broke out at a private physiotherapy company that has outlets in Bangsar, Hartamas in Kuala Lumpur and Shah Alam in Selangor that affected 13 out of its 18 physiotherapists. In updates on its social media pages, the company disclosed that the cluster began when the index patient attended a dinner party with other staff after Christmas, when social mingling was allowed.

There have also been recent sporadic reports of Covid-19 positive cases at commercial and residential centres nationwide.

The most recent cases were detected at the Teng Mini Market Centre, better known as TMC, a popular budget supermarket in Bangsar and Tesco in Ampang. Both are in Kuala Lumpur. The Southgate Commercial Centre also in Kuala Lumpur was likewise hit by a cluster of Covid cases.

Other supermarket clusters that formed elsewhere in the country are the Taman Batik cluster in Kedah, which has recorded nine new infections as of January 13 and the Iris cluster in Kuala Lumpur, which have recorded 11 cases as of January 12.

Prior to the current third wave that started when Malaysians travelled freely and frequently back and forth from Sabah and the peninsula for the September state election, the Health Ministry had Covid-19 cases within manageable levels.

Cases and clusters back in November last year mostly saw infections limited to the manufacturing and construction industries which largely employed foreign labour who were housed in hostels. The virus spread likely due to the sharing of facilities and limited space that did not encourage physical distancing. Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said on November 20 that the virus had not spread within the community... yet.

The steady upwards trajectory started when the government allowed interstate travel to resume again from December 7.

Domestic tourism enjoyed a short boom as Malaysians, excited at the possibility of travelling and reuniting with loved ones once more, criss-crossed the country and forgot to follow the Covid-19 protocols to wear face masks covering the mouth AND nose in crowded public spaces and went back to fist-bumping and hugging each other instead of keeping a one-metre distance.

It was inevitable that the Covid-19 virus, invisible to the naked eye, went along on this joyride.

Examples of infections carried across district and state borders are the Kampung Badak cluster covering Bachok and Kota Baru in Kelantan as well as Hulu Langat in Selangor. The index case for the cluster tested positive on January 12 and was said to have a travel history to Selangor.

The cluster’s name is attributed to the locality of the infection in Kampung Badak Bachok, Kelantan, where 39 tested positive out of 170 people screened as of January 12.

Similarly, the Taman Kesedar cluster in Gua Musang that was first identified on January 12 resulted from interstate travel between Kelantan and Kuala Lumpur. Fourteen people tested positive for the virus as of last Tuesday.

Public health officials had repeatedly warned Malaysians to be vigilant and disciplined in following the SOPs during the recovery phase of the movement control order (MCO) so that life can go on as best possible in the new normal carved out by the virus.

A mixture of a lax attitude, indifference and perhaps over-positive thinking now that Covid-19 vaccines are available on the market culminated in the present MCO 2.0 and the state of Emergency, declared last Monday that is to last until August 1, or until infections become manageable again... whichever comes first.

As a reminder, 3,309 new Covid-19 were recorded in a single day on January 12. As of January 13, there are 616 active Covid-19 clusters, with a daily infection count of 2,985 cases.

Will MCO 2.0 break the chain of infections? Only if everyone does their part.

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