Two deaths linked to South African Covid-19 variant

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Two Covid-19 deaths have been linked to the highly contagious B.1.351 strain first found in South Africa, health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said today.

Noor Hisham told the press that these two deaths were linked to the Teknologi Emas workplace cluster in Kuala Langat, which was first reported on Feb 26.

He added that a total of 56 cases of variants of concern (VOC) have been reported in the country, as well as three variants of interest of which one case involves the B.1.617.1 double mutation strain from India while the 56 VOC cases involve the B.1.1.7 strain from the UK and South African variants.

Ten patients from the Kampung Bunut Sarang Burung cluster in Tumpat, Kelantan, were found with the South African strain. This cluster was caused by interstate travel.

Ten other patients from the Jalan Canning Estate cluster in Ipoh also had the same strain. This cluster involved a social activity at an entertainment centre.

However, cases from general clusters were noticeably dropping, with more sporadic cases being reported. The number of infections among younger people was also increasing, with worse symptoms than reported previously.


“Usage of intensive care units has increased. Apart from the elderly and those with comorbidities, younger patients are also using the ICU now. The severity of cases is much higher,” he said. “These new strains are more ‘violent’.”

He said genomic sequencing, used to determine if patients carried different strains, would be conducted on a young patient if symptoms were severe, they do not respond well to treatment and respiratory assistance is required.

He also confirmed that there have been three cases of reinfection so far, with two reported in Selangor and one in Seremban.

Commenting on the total 1,657 deaths reported so far, he pointed out that 18% of this number comprised patients who were brought in dead, while 85% of deaths were of those aged 50 and above. He said 87% of cases were only detected when the patients were in stage 4 or 5 of severity.

With Covid-19 cases continuing to rise nationwide, some hospitals have exceeded maximum capacity for Covid-19 beds and ICUs.

Hospital Serdang is at 141% capacity for Covid-19 beds, followed by Hospital Tengku Ampuan Rahimah (128%), Hospital Kuala Lumpur (113%) and Hospital Sungai Buloh (112%).

Covid-19 beds in private hospitals are nearing full capacity in the Klang Valley, particularly in Selangor with more than 90% capacity reached. However, overall, private hospitals have around 50% capacity available in beds and ICUs.

In more positive news, there are only 227 active cases among healthcare workers currently, compared to the 2,328 reported in January alone. However, due to the positive cases, some 918 healthcare workers are undergoing quarantine.

More than 60,000 Covid-19 tests were conducted in the past 24 hours, comprising 30,198 RT-PCR tests and 31,223 RTK antigen tests. – FMT