A KUCHING woman’s return from Covid-19 struck Italy was not the joyful homecoming she had wished from her holiday.
Instead, she only brought anguish – and death – to her friend’s family, listed by Sarawak health authorities and Disaster Management Committee (DMC) only as the “R.K. family”.
State Housing and Local Government Minister Dr Sim Kui Hian said the woman flew home from virus hotbed Italy with a female friend.
He did not say when the pair arrived.
Sim, who is holding a watching brief on health matters for the state government, said the duo were tested for Covid-19 while under home quarantine, and their results came back positive.
However, they are asymptomatic.
According to Sim and an infographic released by the state DMC, one of the two women went on to infect 10 people, including a 79-year-old mother, 40-year-old sister and 49-year-old brother – all of whom succumbed to the disease.
He said the “first generation” of infected people from the “Italy cluster” – seven of whom are women – comprised “close relatives”.
The 79-year-old was admitted to a private hospital on March 16, five days after experiencing fever and cough, said director-general of health Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah and the state DMC when reporting her March 18 death.
She had breathing difficulties while in hospital, but the 79-year-old’s family refused to grant permission for a ventilator to be used, said Noor Hisham.
The senior citizen’s family then discharged her nd took her home a day after she was admitted.
Sim said the hospital’s rapid blood tests on the senior citizen returned negative for the virus, but added that such testing is not fool-proof.
“So, they (the family) thought she did not have Covid-19.”
A question that the hospital has yet to answer is why a sample taken for the more-conclusive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test was sent to a laboratory in Kuala Lumpur, when Kuching has two Institute of Medical Research-certified labs at Sarawak General Hospital (SGH) and Universiti Malaysia Sarawak.
The PCR test result came back only after the woman died, and it showed that she had contracted the coronavirus. This forced the private hospital to temporarily shut for disinfection.
The 40-year-old woman, meanwhile, was admitted to SGH the same day her mother died. She had reportedly suffered a fever and cough since March 7.
The victim tested positive for Covid-19 on March 19, by which time she needed a ventilator. She died two days later.
On March 23, her brother died.
Sim, highlighting the dangers of the disease, said the first person infected is still alive, but another family has lost three members.
He told reporters this after receiving a shipment of 2,000 pieces of N95 masks donated by the Fujian provincial government in China and meant for medical frontliners.
Other members of the R.K. family are in isolation at a quarantine facility.
Apart from Italy, Sarawak has also detected cases brought in from Scotland and the Netherlands.
Malaysia yesterday recorded 235 new cases – the highest daily figure – bringing the nationwide total to 2,031, with 24 deaths. – March 27, 2020.
Editor’s note: this story has been edited for factual errors.