What We Learnt from Malaysia’s Case No. 26

A reminder to have good hygiene and quarantine practices.
Thursday 5 March 2020
A commuter wearing a facemask amid fears of the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus. Photo: Mladen Antonov / AFP

On 4 March 2020, the Health Ministry in Malaysia announced and confirmed a new Covid-19 cluster: there are 14 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the tally in the country to 50.

“After 11 days without new reported cases, a second wave began on Feb 27,” comments Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah. The second wave, he adds, has recorded 28 positive cases – namely cases number 23 to 50 – and that the main root of it all is one particular person.

“The cluster involves Case No. 26. Based on investigations and contact tracing carried out to date, 215 close contacts of Case No. 26 have been detected.” From the total, 16 cases were found positive, 19 negative, while 180 were still awaiting test results.

Essentially, all of the cases in this cluster were first and second generation cases linked to patient 26, an Uda Holdings Bhd. board member, who tested positive on 1 March 2020.

To add, Dr Noor Hisham shares that out of the cluster, five new positive cases had no relation to Case No.26, but had got Covid-19 from friends, family members or colleagues who had close contact with the infected individual. The new patients had been in several meetings attended by Patient 26 from Feb 21 to Feb 27. This demonstrates how highly contagious Covid-19 can be.

However, patient 26 should not be considered a super spreader. Dr Noor Hisham explains: “I won’t call him a super spreader. There is one case in South Korea where one patient infected more than a thousand others.”

Keep calm but stay safe.

Investigation of this case is still ongoing and the ministry hopes everyone can remain calm and aide in providing accurate information regarding the matter, especially when contacted or identified as a close contact to patient 26. But, to be honest, this should not only be applied in this situation – it should be applied to all situations.

The importance of quarantine and good personal hygiene practices has never been more crucial. According to the WHO, these practices play an integral role in slowing down an epidemic as they restrain the ability of infectious people to spread the virus.

Quarantines are essential and effective because they limit the number of people exposed to a disease. A quarantined person would stay in place until they are no longer infectious, effectively reducing the population exposed to the epidemic. And as for personal hygiene, practices such as using hand sanitisers regularly kill viruses that may be attached to you.

Sources: NST, The Star