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Malaysia Braces For Possible Omicron-Fuelled Wave, New ‘Battlefield’ Awaits

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) — With two confirmed cases todate and 18 more pending test results, Malaysia is bracing itself for a new wave of COVID-19 brought by the heavily mutated Omicron variant, which has spread to more than 77 nations including three continents – Africa, Europe and Asia.

“Please brace yourself for Omicron. It is coming and it is here already, it’s just a matter of time,”said Health Minister, Khairuddin Jamaluddin at a press conference yesterday when he reported two COVID-19 Variant of Concern (VOC) cases.

Khairy noted that he had informed Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah to send all medical frontliners back to the “battlefield.”

The two Omicron cases involved an 8-year old Malaysian girl who arrived in the country together with her mother and her siblings on Dec 5 from Lagos (Nigeria).The first case of the Omicron variant in the country involved a 19-year old non-Malaysian girl from a private university in Ipoh, Perak, who arrived in the country on Nov 19. She was fully vaccinated and asymptomatic.

On Nov 26, 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced the first case of the Omicron variant was first detected in Gauteng province, South Africa.

According to a study conducted by Japanese scientist, Hiroshi Nishiura, the Omicron variant is 4.2 times more transmissible in its early stage than Delta.

China and Indonesia are among the latest to have reported their first cases of Omicron. The United Kingdom (UK) reported its first official death due to Omicron on Dec 14 after the first case was detected in the country on Nov 27. Yesterday alone, UK reported 88,376 new COVID-19 cases, bringing total cumulative figure to 11,097,851.

Meanwhile, Malaysia yesterday recorded 4,262 new daily cases of COVID-19, bringing the total cumulative figure to 2,707,402.

Active COVID-19 cases with probable infections as at 11.59 pm yesterday stood at 56,229. During the week under review (Dec 11 to Dec 16), new daily cases are as below:

Dec 11 (4,626), Dec 12 (3,490 kes), Dec 13 (3,504 kes), Dec 14 (4,097), Dec 15 (3,900) and Dec 16 (4,262).

With the cumulative figure of 2,707,402, Malaysia now ranked 21st in the list of 222 nations/territories struck by the COVID-19 pandemic. Ahead of Malaysia is the Philippines (2,837,016) and the Netherlands (2,936,761).

Of 4,262 new cases announced yesterday, Dr Noor Hisham said, only 78 cases (1.8 per cent) were categories 3, 4 and 5 while 4,184 cases (98.2 per cent) were categories 1 and 2. According to MOH, category 5 is for critical cases requiring ventilators; category 4 is for patients needing oxygen assistance and category 3 is for patients with pneumonia. Category 1 is for patients who are asymptomatic and category 2 is for those with mild symptoms.

Total COVID-19 recoveries as of yesterday stood at 4,985 cases, bringing total recovered cases to 2,620,147 (96.8 per cent).

Of 284 COVID-19 patients warded at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) yesterday, 135 cases needed respiratory assistance.

Another 37 fatalities were registered yesterday, bringing the total cumulative figure to 31,026 cases.

Meanwhile, the Ro/rt value stays below 1.00. Below is the Ro/Rt during the week under review: Dec 11 (0.97), Dec 12 (0.95), Dec 13 (0.94), Dec 14 (0.93), Dec 15 (0.92) and Dec 16 (0.90).

As of yesterday, Negeri Sembilan recorded the highest Ro/Rt value at 1.02, followed by Pahang (1.00) and Penang (1.00).

The R-Naught or R0/Rt value of a virus indicates the infectivity rate or the number of new infections generated by each case. An R0 value of 0.5 would be needed to flatten this deadly virus’ infection curve.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS IN THE COUNTRY

On Dec 11, Dr Noor Hisham said the latest report on COVID-19 spike protein mutation detected 298 new variant cases were detected from Nov 19 to Dec 8.

Total cumulative cases infected by the SARS-CoV-2 categorised as Variant of Concern (VOC) and Variant of Interest (VOI) stood at 4,990 cases. Of the total cases detected, 4,970 were VOC and 20 were VOI.

According to MOH’s COVIDNOW data as of yesterday, total active COVID-19 cases with probable infection stood at 56,229 with the breakdown as below:

Home quarantine – 46,826 cases (83.3 per cent);

COVID-19 Quarantine and Treatment Centre (PKRC) – 4,763 cases (8.5 per cent);

Hospitals – 4,257 cases (7.6 per cent);

Intensive Care Unit (ICU) without respiratory assistance (ABP) – 185 cases (0.3 per cent);

ICU and needed ABP – 198 cases (0.4 per cent).

Of the total new daily cases of 4,262 reported yesterday, the state-by-state breakdown of new cases (+imported cases) is as follows:

Four-digits – Selangor 1,380 (+8);

Three-digits – Johor 471, Kedah 259 (+2), Kelantan 175 (+1), Melaka 136 (+3), Negeri Sembilan 202 (+1), Pahang 351 (+1), Perak 208 (+1), Penang 249, Sabah 193 (+2), Terengganu 214 dan Kuala Lumpur 290 (+10).

Two-digits – Sarawak 38 (+7), Perlis 29 and Putrajaya 25.

One-digit – Labuan 6.

Meanwhile, total active clusters in Malaysia as of yesterday declined to 248. Overall, 6,062 clusters were detected in the country with 5,814 of them having ended.

During the week, total new clusters stood at 33. Most of the new clusters were linked to the workplace (18 cases (54.5 per cent) and community, 6 cases (18.1 per cent).

COVID-19 SCENARIO IN MALAYSIA (DEC 11 – DEC 16)

The breakdown of active COVID-19 cases is as below:

Dec 11(60,778), Dec 12 (58,852), Dec 13 (57,926), Dec 14 (57,674), Dec 15 (56,989) and Dec 16 (56,229).

Following is the breakdown of COVID-19 patients based on their respective categories:

Of 4,626 new cases reported on Dec 11; 95 (2.1 per cent) were categories 3, 4 and 5; and 4,531 (97.9 per cen) were categories 1 and 2.

Of 3,490 new cases reported on Dec 12; 69 (2.0 per cent) were categories 3, 4 and 5; and 3,421 (98.0 per cent) were categories 1 and 2.

Of 3,504 new cases reported on Dec 13; 76 (2.2 per cent) were categories 3, 4 and 5; and 3,428 (97.8 per cent) were categories 1 and 2.

Of 4,097 daily cases reported on Dec 14; 86 (2.1 per cent) were categories 3, 4 and 5; and 4,011 (97.9 per cent) were categories 1 and 2.

Of 3,900 daily cases reported on Dec 15; 86 (2.2 per cent) were categories 3, 4 and 5; and 3,814 (97.8 per cent) were categories 1 and 2.

Of 4,262 new cases reported on Dec 16; 78 (1.8 per cent) were categories 3, 4 and 5; and 4,184 (98.2 per cent) were categories 1 and 2.

Recovered cases during the week under review are as follows:

Dec 11 (4,690), Dec 12 (5,399), Dec 13 (4,401), Dec 14 (4,301), Dec 15 (4,552) and Dec 16 (4,985). *cumulative recorded cases as of yesterday stood at 2,620,147 (96.8 per cent).

Following is the daily breakdown of new cases, local transmissions and other related matters:

Dec 11 — New cases : 4,626 (cumulative 2,688,149); Imported cases: 20 (15 citizens; 5 non-citizens); Local transmission: 4,606 (4,440 citizens (96.4 per cent); 166 non-citizens (3.6 per cent)];

Dec 12 — New cases : 3,490 (cumulative 2,691,639); Imported cases: 14 (11 citizens; 3 non-citizens); Local transmission: 3,476 [3,322 citizens (95.6 per cent); 154 non-citizens (4.4 per cent)];

Dec 13 — New cases : 3,504 (cumulative 2,695,143); Imported cases: 24 (15 citizens; 9 non-citizens); Local transmission: 3,480 [3,364 citizens (96.7 per cent); 116 non-citizens (3.3%)];

Dec 14 — New cases : 4,097 (cumulative 2,699,240); Imported cases: 18 (15 citizens; 3 non-citizens); Local transmission: 4,079 [3,821 citizens (93.7 per cent); 258 non-citizens (6.3 per cent)];

Dec 15 — New cases : 3,900 (cumulative 2,703,140); Imported cases: 19 (16 citizens; 3 non-citizens); Local transmission: 3,881 [3,692 citizens (95.1 per cent); 189 non-citizens (4.9 per cent)];

Dec 16 — New cases : 4,262 (cumulative 2,707,402); Imported cases: 36 (29 citizens; 7 non-citizens); Local transmission: 4,226 [4,041 citizens (95.6 per cent); 185 non-citizens (4.4 per cent)].

The daily breakdown in fatalities is as follows: *BID = Brought-in-Dead are cases outside the hospital and those brought to the hospital’s forensic department; positive COVID-19 cases after PT PCR tests conducted. Dec 11- 31 (BID 7), Dec 12 -17 (BID 3), Dec 13 – 29 (BID 8), Dec 14 – 48 (BID 12), Dec 15 – 33 (BID 4) and Dec 16 – 37 (BID 4).

*Total fatalities as of yesterday stood at 31,026.

New clusters reported are as below:

Dec 11 – 6 (workplace 3, community 1, education 1 and high-risk 1);

Dec 12- 2 (community 1 and high-risk 1);

Dec 13 – 6 (workplace 1, community 1, education 3 and high-risk 1);

Dec 14 – 6 (workplace 5 and education 1);

Dec 15 – 7 (workplace 6 and community 1);

Dec 16 – 6 (workplace 3, community 2 and imported 1).

GLOBAL COVID-19 STATISTICS

According to Worldometer, total COVID-19 cases worldwide stood at 273,218,485 from 268,999,083 previously as against 5,352,581 fatalities from 5,307,147 the previous week. Recovered cases stood at 245,296,117 from 242,045,221 previously.

Some 222 countries are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and those in the top 10 of the list are the United States (US), India, Brazil, UK, Russia, Turkey, France, Iran, Germany and Spain.

The breakdown is as follows:

US 51,435,652 cases (824,520 deaths);

India 34,721,174 cases (476,478 deaths);

Brazil 22,204,941 cases (617,521 deaths);

UK 11,097,851 cases (146,937 deaths);

Russia 10,131,646 cases (294,024 deaths);

Turkey 9,118,424 cases (79,863 deaths);

France 8,460,712 cases (121,171 deaths);

Germany 6,709,218 cases (108,154 deaths);

Iran 6,165,454 cases (130,946 deaths);

Spain 5,422,168 (88,667 deaths).

China, where the outbreak was first reported at end-December 2019, remained at the 113th spot with 100,078 cases and 4,636 deaths.

Besides Malaysia, the five other Southeast Asian nations that have joined the list of 112 countries with more than 100,000 COVID-19 cases are:

Indonesia in the 14th spot – 4,259,857 (143,979 deaths); Philippines 20th – 2,837,016 cases (50,496 deaths); Thailand 24th – 2,185,497 cases (21,325 deaths); Vietnam 32nd 1,493,237 cases (28,857 deaths); Myanmar 65th – 527,714 cases (19,201 deaths); Singapore 86th – 274,972 cases (808 deaths); Cambodia 110th 120,397 cases (2,998 deaths); Laos 115th 115th – 94,554 cases (262 deaths); Brunei 167th 167 – 15,376 cases (98 deaths).

COVID-19 BACKGROUND

The World Health Organisation (WHO)’s China country office was informed of cases of pneumonia that were detected in Wuhan on Dec 31, 2019. On Jan 7, 2020 the Chinese authorities confirmed that the newly detected 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 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (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.

On Feb 11, 2020, WHO announced the official name of the virus, COVID-19, which is an acronym for coronavirus 2019 – CO stands for corona, VI for virus and D for disease. On Jan 30, 2020, WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak as a global emergency and on March 11, COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.

WHO has described the COVID-19 outbreak as much more dangerous than the A H1N1 Influenza, also known as Swine Flu.

Swine Flu, which occurred between January 2009 and August 2010, infected more than 1.6 million people and caused 18,449 fatalities. It was first detected in Mexico and later in the United States in March 2009.

COVID-19 was detected in Malaysia on Jan 25, 2020, when three Chinese citizens, who had entered Malaysia through Johore from Singapore on Jan 23, were tested positive for the disease.

New variants of the COVID-19 coronavirus have since emerged in the United Kingdom (identified as B117) in September 2020, South Africa (501Y.V2) in October 2020 and India (B.1.617), also in October 2020.

Cumulatively, Malaysia’s COVID-19 cases have breached the one million mark as on July 25, with 1,013,438 cases. The first time daily cases reached the five-digit level was on July 13 with 11,079 cases.

WHO on Nov 26 designated a new variant of COVID-19, named Omicron, a variant of concern. It was first detected in Gauteng Province, South Africa.

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