COVID-19: New cluster involving immigration detainees identified in Malaysia

COVID-19: New cluster involving immigration detainees identified in Malaysia

Illegal immigrants wait in line to be picked up by immigration officers outside an apartment under
People waiting in line to be picked up by immigration officers outside an apartment under enhanced lockdown, during the movement control order due to the outbreak of COVID-19, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, May 1, 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Lim Huey Teng)

PUTRAJAYA: A COVID-19 cluster has been identified at an immigration detention centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Thursday (May 21).

A total of 35 detainees at the centre in Bukit Jalil have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Speaking at a press conference, health director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah said that the 35 foreign nationals were detained before the movement control order (MCO) was enforced on Mar 18.

“A total of 645 foreigners have been screened and samples have been taken. Of that number, 400 tested negative while 210 are still waiting for their results. Thirty-five tested positive.

“All 35 are non-Malaysians, where 17 were Myanmmar nationals, 15 were Indian nationals and one from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Egypt respectively."

Dr Noor Hisham said that the source of the infection was still under investigation, adding that the 35 detainees could have been infected by workers at the detention centre, such as those who work in the kitchen.

“These 35 were detained before the MCO. They were all not screened before being put in the detention centre. But they were all isolated in Block A of the detention centre.

“We were told that those detained before the MCO were not mixing with the detainees from the other blocks. All those being detained now are screened immediately upon detention, so we are trying to identify the source,” he said.

READ: Malaysia detains hundreds of refugees and migrants during COVID-19 lockdown, says Rights groups

On Wednesday, Dr Noor Hisham announced that a Myanmar national, who was among the 437 detainees arrested before the MCO, had tested positive after being deported back to his home country.

“We have a report that one case was of a Myanmar national who was detained pre-MCO. Out of 437 who were detained, one was tested positive. This batch of detainees were not screened earlier and we will be screening the remaining 436 (detainees),” he said on Wednesday.

READ: COVID-19 tests made compulsory for all foreign workers in Malaysia

Myanmar news outlet The Irrawaddy reported on Tuesday that five new COVID-19 cases were detected there among its nationals who returned from Malaysia. The five were among six confirmed cases reported in Myanmar on that day.

On May 12, nearly 400 Myanmar nationals were deported from Malaysia after being held at 11 immigration detention centres across the country.

As of Thursday, Dr Noor Hisham announced 90 more COVID-19 patients were discharged, bringing the total number of recoveries to 5,796.

“There are 50 new cases today, bringing the total to 7,059. The number of active cases are 1,149. Of the 50 to test positive today, three were imported cases. From the remaining 47 cases, 41 are non-Malaysians,” he said.

Ten people are in the intensive care unit, seven of whom needed to be intubated. 

He added that the death toll remained at 114 with no more deaths recorded on Wednesday.

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Source: CNA/kd(mi)

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