Dr Noor Hisham: 23 Covid-19 cases detected in aged care homes in Malaysia, almost half involve caretakers

Jerry Choong

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the ministry has conducted screening and testing on 272 homes for the elderly nationwide as of today. — Picture by Choo Choy May

PUTRAJAYA, May 23 — The Health Ministry has conducted screening and testing on 272 homes for the elderly nationwide as of today, said its director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

He said thus far 23 Covid-19 positive cases have been detected, 13 of which are the homes’ residents themselves.

“The 10 other positive cases are among the homes’ personnel and caretaking staff,” he said during his daily Covid-19 press conference.

Dr Noor Hisham said overall, 87 per cent of the homes’ elderly residents are asymptomatic.

“The ministry has identified eight target groups, the elderly being one of them. Our advice in protecting this vulnerable category is for staff who sometimes come by outside of working hours and help out, to not do so as they risk bringing the virus with them.

“Generally, if we look at previous clusters such as in the markets and the tahfiz schools, 85 per cent of them are asymptomatic. But nonetheless, it is important for the public to uphold the standard operating procedures (SOP) as laid down by the ministry,” he said.

Meanwhile the ministry has taken 1,752 samples from the Immigration Department’s custody depot in Semenyih, where 1,631 undocumented foreigners are detained with 121 department personnel.

“Presently, 21 Covid-19 positive cases have been detected, while results from the other samples are still being processed. It should also be noted that prisons are similarly risky places, especially if gatherings occur in enclosed spaces.

“So we will have to look at it, but for now the situation in the depots are still under control. The usual SOPs of screenings and testing will be conducted similar to those in the extended movement control order, by isolating close contacts and removing positive cases for treatment,” Dr Noor Hisham said.

The director-general was also asked about the usage of hydroxychloroquine and its efficacy when it comes to Covid-19. He said the widely-available medication, used to treat malaria, has its own side-effects when used.

“This includes headaches, gastrointestinal symptoms, blurred vision, and even blindness. The doctor has to monitor the patient closely when the treatment begins.

“More importantly, not every patient is suited to take the medication. As mentioned before hydroxychloroquine is not antiviral, but has anti-inflammatory properties,” he said.

Due to this, Dr Noor Hisham said hydroxychloroquine has its advantages, but must be used with as much precaution as possible.

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