The Health Ministry is expecting a tsunami of Covid-19 cases in the country due to the huge number of Malaysians who went overseas during the school holidays earlier this month.

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the movement control order (MCO) being implemented by the government now was part of preparations to face the third wave.

“We carried out this MCO as a preparation for our expectations, where three weeks ago we thought there would be a third wave, or what we call a tsunami,” he told a press conference in Putrajaya today.

According to him, health authorities found that many Malaysians went out of the country for holidays, including to Japan and S Korea.

He also revealed that there was a ministry which had given approval to 8,000 of its staff to go for holidays overseas.

“I was informed that there is one ministry, some 8,000 of its staff were given approval or have purchased tickets to go overseas, including to Japan, S Korea and such.

“So, if we take for example this 8,000 figure from one ministry, let’s say they went as a family of three, that would be 32,000 people who went out for holidays,” he said.

“So we are worried that when 32,000 tourists from Malaysia who went to S Korea, Japan and Italy, when they return, we will have an exponential spike in the number of imported cases,” Noor Hisham said.

He said the government did not have the capability to isolate such a large number of people at its quarantine facilities.

Thus, according to him, the MCO was the best option to break the chain of infection.

“Stay at home, make sure that they stay in for two weeks, especially those with a history of travel overseas, so we can quarantine them at home,” he said.

Noor Hisham said that the second measure after MCO would be to enhance their public health response by using a targeted approach to trace suspected cases and treat them in hospital.

Four clusters of Covid-19 infection detected in Kluang

The health authority suspects that the spike in the number of Covid-19 positive cases in Kluang, Johor is connected with the tabligh gathering cluster.

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the Health Ministry’s preliminary investigation into the high number of cases in the district detected at least four clusters of infection in the area.

“From the preliminary investigation, the four clusters might be connected to the tabligh gathering in Sri Petaling, Kuala Lumpur.

“Four index cases had attended the gathering and maybe after they returned to the village and they attended weddings there, as well as attended congregational prayers with the villagers, and spread the infection,” he told a press conference in Putrajaya this evening.

According to MOH statistics, as of noon today, Kluang recorded a total number of 88 positive cases.

From the number, 74 cases came from two areas in the district, namely Kampung Dato Ibrahim Majid and Bandar Baharu Dato Ibrahim Majid.

The areas are now under a total lockdown by the authorities, which started today, due to the high number of positive cases recorded there.

Noor Hisham said four Covid-19 death cases were also connected to the spread of the virus in the two areas.

“This was among the reasons why the government introduced the enhanced movement control order (EMCO) there,” he said.

Last night, senior minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that the government was implementing an EMCO for the two areas effective midnight yesterday until April 9.

According to Noor Hisham, so far, a total of 13,762 participants of the tabligh gathering have been screened and 12,317 were tested for Covid-19.

Of those tested, 1,137 were found to be positive, while 6,623 turned out negative. The results for the remaining 4,557 cases are pending.

Noor Hisham also told reporters today that Malaysia has been chosen by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as one of the centres to conduct research on finding a cure for Covid-19.

He said among its tasks was to research on the latest drug called “Remdesivir” to treat Covid-19 patients.

“Tonight, we will have a discussion with WHO and on the agenda is cooperation in research.

“It would be focused on the Sungai Buloh Hospital and other Covid-19 hospitals which might be used to collect data on patients.”

He said Malaysia was among a number of countries selected by WHO and among the criteria for why it was chosen was because it already had a platform for medical research and as well as trained researchers.