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Jakarta Post

COVID-19: North Sumatra traces residents who attended virus-stricken religious gathering in Kuala Lumpur

  • Apriadi Gunawan

    The Jakarta Post

Medan   /   Sun, March 15, 2020   /   06:30 pm
COVID-19: North Sumatra traces residents who attended virus-stricken religious gathering in Kuala Lumpur Medical workers from Malaysia's Health Ministry wear protective suits as they ride on the tailgate of a pickup truck on Feb. 26 as the second batch of Malaysian nationals, evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang. (AFP/Malaysia's Ministry of Health /Muzzafar Kasim)

Health authorities in North Sumatra are tracing some 350 residents of the province who attended a mass religious gathering in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia so they can observe them to curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

North Sumatra Health Agency head Alwi Mujahit Hasibuan said the contact tracing was begun following reports that a number of people who attended the event have tested positive for COVID-19.

“We are looking for them not to say they are infected, but to prevent an outbreak [in North Sumatra],” Alwi told reporters in Medan on Friday.

Among those who have returned from Kuala Lumpur, he added, were some from Medan, Binjai and other cities in the province. He called on the mass gathering participants to contact the health agency or recommended hospitals and to call the agency at 082164902482.

“We hope they reach us immediately so that we can monitor and observe their health,” Alwi said.

Earlier reports said that Malaysian authorities were tracking about 5,000 citizens across the country believed to have been potentially exposed to the virus at the religious event held at a mosque between Feb. 27 and March 1 on the outskirts of the capital Kuala Lumpur.

The Malaysian Health Ministry said the contact tracing was initiated after neighboring Brunei reported its first COVID-19 case on Tuesday: a 53-year-old man who attended the event.

“The Health Ministry urges all who attended the event to cooperate with health officials to ensure COVID-19 does not continue to spread in their communities,” the ministry’s secretary-general, Noor Hisham Abdullah, said as quoted by Reuters.

On Sunday, the Malaysian Health Ministry announced 190 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, most of which were related to the religious gathering.

Read also: No tracing yet of Indonesians attending Kuala Lumpur event after positive COVID-19 cases

Further contact tracing by Brunei authorities found 81 citizens that had attended the event, 16 of whom were tested positive for COVID-19, as reported by the Borneo Bulletin.

Separately, The Straits Times reported that Singapore’s Health Ministry had found that at least 90 Singaporeans attended the event. Two of them tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday.

The mass religious gathering involved up to 10,000 members of the Tablighi Jamaat congregation from several countries. The Straits Times reported that a photo of a noticeboard at the event showed that it was attended by more than 1,500 foreign participants from 27 countries, including 696 people from Indonesia, 81 from Brunei and 95 from Singapore. (asp)