With a fourth confirmed case of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) infection in Malaysia, the local government has stepped up its efforts in containing the spread of the virus.

Among the measures taken include temporarily barring Mainland Chinese travellers from Hubei province and Wuhan city from entering Malaysia, the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement yesterday (27 January 2020).

Another step taken by the Malaysia Ministry of Health (MOH) to address the 2019-nCoV infection clusters in Malaysia is to strengthen health screening activities at all International Entry Points (PMAs), Malaysia’s Director-General of Health, Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, said in a Facebook post.

In Johor Bahru district where there are six PMAs - two of which are through the Johor Bahru-Singapore mainland namely Sultan Iskandar Building (BSI) and Sultan Abu Bakar Complex (KSAB) - thermal scanners have been placed at entry points to detect travelers with symptoms of fever.

In the event of a suspected traveler, he or she will be further examined in the Health Screening Room and referred to the Sultanah Aminah Hospital Infectious Disease Team, Johor Bahru for further examination.

In addition, a special immigration route for any traveler from China has also been established. On average, the number of travelers from China entering KSAB is 3000-3500 people a day throughout 2019.

In a separate Facebook post, Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has shared a list of referral hospitals which are handling suspected and legitimate cases of 2019-nCoV.

 

According to a World Health Organization (WHO) situational report, current estimates of the incubation period of the virus range from 2-10 days, and these estimates will be refined as more data become available.

Among the 37 cases identified outside of China, what we know are:

  • Three were detected without the onset of symptoms, while among the remaining 34 patients, there is information on date of symptom for 28 individuals.
  • The median age of cases is 45 years ranging from 2 to 74 years and a majority (71%) of cases were male (information was missing on age for 6 cases, and on sex for 4 cases).
  • Of the 27 cases with detailed information on date of symptom onset and travel date from China, 8 cases had symptom onset in China, 5 had onset on the same day as travel, and 14 developed symptoms after leaving China.
  • 36 cases had travel history to China, of whom 34 had travel history in Wuhan city, or had an epidemiological link to a confirmed case with travel history to Wuhan. For the remaining two, investigations into their travel histories are ongoing.
  • One case was the result of human-to-human transmission among close family contacts in Vietnam.

The report recommended the following to reduce the general risk of transmission:

  • Avoid close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections.
  • Wash hands frequently, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment.
  • Avoid unprotected contact with farm or wild animals.
  • Enhance standard infection prevention and control practices within healthcare facilities, hospitals, especially in emergency departments.
  • People with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice cough etiquette (maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing, and wash hands).

In line with the recommendations, the Malaysia Ministry of Human Resources' Facebook page has shared an infographic created by Bernama on how individuals can reduce the risk of being infected.

 

Additionally, to prevent the spread of the virus, Malaysian Airport Berhad has been seen actively disinfecting and cleaning public places to maintain hygiene and cleanliness, in particular sanitising the handrails of escalators and trolleys, Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah noted in a Facebook post.

Since the virus outbreak, face masks have been flying off the shelves in Malaysia.

Given the high demand of the items, the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs has issued a media statement via Facebook warning that stern action will be taken against traders who raise the price of face masks to take advantage of the current outbreak.

Under the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act 2011 five types of face masks will be designated as regulated price items. They are:

  • One-layer type surgical/medical masks with ear loops are to be sold at a wholesale price of RM5.00 per box, and a retail price RM7.00 per box.
  • Two-layer type surgical/medical masks with ear loops should have a wholesale price of RM8.00 per box, a retail price of RM10.00 per box and RM0.20 cents per unit.
  • Three-layer type surgical/medical masks with ear loops or headbands should be priced at a wholesale price of RM25.00 per box, and a retail price RM0.80 cents per unit.
  • Three-layer type surgical/medical masks with headbands should be priced at a wholesale price of RM30.00 per box, and a retail price RM0.80 cents per unit.
  • N95 surgical/medical masks should be sold at a wholesale price RM100.00 per box, and a retail price of RM6.00 per unit.

Any infringement under the provisions of this Act for all types of face masks may be subject to legal action as follows:

  • Individuals can be fined by a court up to RM100,000 or imprisoned for up to three years or both, or compounded up to RM50,000;
  • Companies can be fined up to RM500,000 or compounded up to RM 250,000.

As stated: "The Ministry is requesting the cooperation and attention of the parties involved in the supply and sale of masks to make prudent transactions and comply with the Government's maximum mask price allocation."

Lead photo / Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah's Facebook post