KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 14): The number of Covid-19 cases in Malaysia remains at 19 today at the time of writing since the first case was reported on Jan 25.
Out of the 19 cases, six are Malaysians while the remaining 13 are Chinese citizens. As of today, three patients in Malaysia have recovered and all three are Chinese citizens — two men aged 63 and 40 and a four-year-old girl.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad was earlier (on Feb 12) quoted as saying that the spread of the Covid-19 virus infection remained under control and that the country was in the early containment phase.
Responding to a statement issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO), he said Malaysia had stepped up its preparations earlier in the event of wider transmission of Covid-19.
WHO regional director for the Western Pacific Dr Takeshi Kasai told all countries, including Malaysia, to prepare for the possibility of a wider transmission of the Covid-19 virus.
He said the region was at a "critical juncture" following reports of Covid-19 positive cases with no link to China.
Covid-19 was previously identified as the Wuhan virus or 2019-nCoV and it was first detected in the city of Wuhan in Hubei province, China, on Dec 31, 2019.
WHO announced the official name of the virus (Covid-19) on Feb 11 at a news conference at its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.
Covid-19 is the acronym for coronavirus 2019 — CO stands for corona, VI for virus and D for disease.
WHO also announced that the first vaccine for Covid-19 could be available in 18 months and stressed that the disease should be seen as "public enemy number one".
On Feb 11, Malaysia and Singapore agreed to form a joint working committee to address the Covid-19 outbreak more effectively and share information on public health, medication and research.
Dr Dzulkefly said the committee would be led by his deputy Dr Lee Boon Chye and Dr Lee's counterpart from Singapore.
ADVICE FOR THE PUBLIC
Meanwhile, the public has been advised not to shake hands but practice the 'Salaam Malaysia' gesture when greeting people to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Dr Lee said the gesture — placing the right hand over the heart area of the chest — would prevent people from touching each other, thus reducing the possibility of contracting the virus.
Despite the stern warning from the police and Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission that action will be taken against those who spread fake news or rumours with regard to Covid-19, police have opened another investigation paper in relation to this matter, bringing the number of such cases to 23 so far.
Bukit Aman Criminal Investigation Department (Intelligence and Operations) deputy director Datuk Mohd Roze Shaari said the new investigation paper involved a case in Tumpat, Kelantan.
So far three cases have been brought to court, one each in Kuala Lumpur, Terengganu and Sabah.
According to the latest statistics taken from the Ministry of Health's website, the total number of Covid-19 cases worldwide currently stands at 64,267 covering 25 countries and the total number of deaths 1,489.
Reuters reported yesterday that China's Hubei province recorded 242 deaths on Wednesday (Feb 12), so far the highest number of deaths reported in a single day. Hubei's Health Commission also reported 14,840 new Covid-19 positive cases on the same day.
Apart from one death in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines that occurred last week, Japan announced one death yesterday. The Japan Times quoted Health Minister Katsunobu Kato as saying that the patient who died was a woman in her 80s who hailed from Kanagawa region in the southwest of Tokyo.
Japan has 33 cases of domestic infection; however, some 218 people on board the cruise ship Diamond Princess, which has been docked at the port in Yokohama since early February, have also been tested positive for Covid-19.
Besides China and Japan, others in the top 10 countries with the highest number of infections are Singapore with 58 cases, Thailand 33, South Korea 28, Malaysia 19, Germany 16, Vietnam 16, Australia 15, the US 15 and France 11.
Yesterday, AFP reported that several villages in Vietnam with about 10,000 people situated close to the nation's capital were placed under quarantine yesterday after six cases of Covid-19 were discovered there.
On Feb 11, media reports from Wuhan stated that new research based on data gathered from more than 1,000 Covid-19 patients in China found that the incubation period for the virus was as long as 24 days rather than the previously believed 14 days.
The study, carried out by about 36 researchers from Chinese hospitals and medical schools, found that less than half of the patients showed fever symptoms when they first saw a doctor.
Head of the research team Dr Zhong Nanshan, a Chinese epidemiologist who discovered the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus in 2003, was quoted as saying that much is still unknown about Covid-19.
Symptoms of Covid-19 include fever, cough and breathing difficulty. In more severe cases, the infection can lead to lung inflammation, acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
According to the WHO website, its China country office was informed of cases of pneumonia that were detected in Wuhan on Dec 31, 2019.
On Jan 7, the Chinese authorities confirmed that the novel coronavirus can be transmitted from human to human.
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as SARS and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-COV).
A study of the virus' genetic sequence suggested similarities to that seen in snakes and bats.
China health officials identified the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan as the source of the transmission of the coronavirus.
Besides Malaysia, Covid-19 has spread to Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, Vietnam, Germany, the US, France, Macau, United Arab Emirates, the UK, Canada, Italy, Russia, Spain, Finland, Cambodia, Sweden, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Belgium.
On Jan 30, WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak as a global emergency. By then, it had spread to 18 countries and caused 170 deaths.
The declaration was aimed at preventing or reducing transmissions across borders.
With 1,489 deaths worldwide as of today, Covid-19 has overtaken SARS, which caused 774 deaths in 2003.