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COVID-19: Majority of infected patients linked to religious schools in Malaysia were asymptomatic, says health ministry

COVID-19: Majority of infected patients linked to religious schools in Malaysia were asymptomatic, says health ministry

Health workers perform testing at a COVID-19 testing center at KPJ Damansara Hospital in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia on Mar 28, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng)

PUTRAJAYA: The majority of COVID-19 patients linked to tahfiz, or religious schools, in Malaysia were asymptomatic, said the Ministry of Health on Thursday (May 14), cautioning against a potential spread within the local communities if preventive measures are not taken.

Health Ministry director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a press conference that 539 out of 635 positive patients did not have any symptoms, but were found to have COVID-19 when they were tested.

“A total of 12,384 were tested in total, of that 635 tested positive. From this number, 84.9 per cent were asymptomatic, which is a very worrying trend.

“This 539 did not have any symptoms and this can lead to a wider spread of the virus to the family should these students return to their families,” he said.

He urged students who have returned home to contact their nearest hospitals or health departments to be screened and tested immediately.

“Students who have not gone home should avoid doing so. The school management is urged to contact the nearest health department or hospitals,” he said.

The ministry has focused its attention on 370 madrasah and tahfiz in the country, where there are about 20,000 teachers, students and staff.

As of Thursday, there have been six COVID-19 tahfiz clusters in Malaysia, four of which are linked to the Sri Petaling tabligh event at a mosque. More than 30 per cent of the positive cases in Malaysia have been linked to this event.

Currently, 38,679 people have been screened in relation to the tabligh event, of which 2,351 tested positive.

Additionally, said Dr Noor Hisham, more than 1,000 private madrasah have not come forward to be screened.

“We urge for them to be screened immediately as they pose a risk not only to themselves but to their families and the community around them,” he said.

Separately, the director-general announced 70 new recoveries, bringing the total number recoveries to 5,351.

“As of May 14, there are 40 new cases, of which 31 are foreign nationals. This brings the total number of positive cases to 6,819.

“Of this, the number of active cases is at 1,356,” he said.

He added that one more death was recorded, bringing the total number of fatalities to date to 112.

READ: Malaysia may again tighten COVID-19 restrictions after May 18 if cases surge: Health ministry

READ: Malaysia's Q1 GDP unexpectedly expands, seen contracting this quarter


Earlier on Thursday, the Religious Affairs department of the Prime Minister’s office announced that all mosques and selected surau in the federal territory will be allowed to conduct Friday prayers from May 15.

Minister Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri said in a statement that his department had brought the matter to the King after many areas were marked as green zones.

“The King has given his agreement to our suggestions, which include allowing the Friday prayers in all mosques and certain Surau. Besides that, the daily Tarawih prayers and the annual Hari Raya prayers will also be allowed.

“It was also decided that the prayer gathering would have no less than three people and no more than 30 people. This decision was made after a meeting with the National Security Council,” he said.

He also said that the management of the mosques and Surau would need to engage authorities to ensure public compliance. Members of the religious premises will also have to ensure all safety protocols are adhered to.

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Source: CNA/nh


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