Press Release : COVID-19 Testing and Treatment in Prison Settings: No One Left Behind as Malaysia Move Forward in the Elimination Strategy of this World Pandemic.

20th , May 2020

COVID-19 Testing and Treatment in Prison Settings: No One Left Behind as Malaysia Move Forward in the Elimination Strategy of this World Pandemic.

PETALING JAYA – When Malaysia tests confirmed that one of those samples was infected with COVID-19 on 11 th March 2020 1 , which signaled the coronavirus world pandemic has invaded the country in an isolated and random manner in the community. Immediately on 18 th March 2020, the whole nation started our first phase of two weeks movement control order (MCO) with extension of 3 phases until 9 th June 2020 in an attempt to curb this pandemic from racking havoc of disasters in Malaysia, which has resulted in more than 4.2 million infections with 287,000 deaths worldwide 3 . Up to date Malaysia coronavirus totaled to 6,941 with 133 deaths, and 5,223 recovered 4 – quite a success story as compare to our neighboring ASEAN countries.

While Malaysia’s efforts in battling the spread of COVID-19 among the various known
communities are proving fruitful, with our COVID-19 positive cases way under control at 7%, which is below the 10% benchmark set by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and the death rate at a low 1.6% compared with the global rate of 5.7%. However, we must not forget those in the prison settings of which Malaysia has yet to show any sign of initiation strategy of the COVID-19 prevention and treatment currently.

As evidence base incident proof what has happened in America to further elaborate and in support of the facts. In mid-March 2020, the first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed at Riker’s Island, the main jail complex in New York City. Within 2 weeks, more than 200 cases were diagnosed within the facility, despite efforts to curb the spread. The situation at the Cook County jail in Chicago is similar, with about 350 incarcerated persons and staff members testing positive for the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) virus as of early April 2020. Many other jails and prisons have reported outbreaks of COVID-19 and related deaths[1].

Quoting UNODC, WHO, UNAIDS AND OHCHR joint statement on COVID-19 in other close settings* that highlighted the rate of infection of diseases in such a confined population is also higher than among the general population[2].  There are currently 28,525 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among people incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails, and 393 confirmed COVID-19 deaths. Due to under-testing and under-reporting, the true numbers are likely to be much higher [3].

As per WHO’s highlight that the response to COVID-19 in prisons and places of detention, though more challenging and requires a whole-of-society approach, efforts to control COVID-19 in the community are likely to fail if strong infection prevention and control measures, testing, treatment and care are not carried out in prisons and places of detention as well[4].  Prison health is part of public health so that nobody is left behind.

As such MTAAG+ like to strongly urge the Ministry of Health of Malaysia and the Malaysia various related stakeholders in collaboration with community base organisation of the various state to immediately looking into the possible COVID-19 prevention and treatment strategies in addressing this issue, which currently is still a big gap and afraid in delaying will cause a next wave of outbreaks in Malaysia. If such outbreaks occur will place a considerable demand with heavy burden on the health-care services in prisons, as well as increase the likelihood of the COVID-19 to spread within prisons and other places of detention and from such settings back into the community, which will bring all the affords done in Malaysia back to square one.

MTAAG+ was formed on the 21st, December, 2005 by a group of People Living with HIV (PLHIV), which realised the need to form a strong poz-representative in Malaysia to speak out and be heard in international events. The priorities of MTAAG+ are the national implementation of TRIPS flexibilities in law and practice, and the prevention of IP provision in bilateral and plurilateral trade agreements that are against public health, in particular access to affordable medicines.



Contact Person:  Mr Edward Low

Contact No. 03-7931 2066 (Office) / 012-327 8812 (Mobile)



HCV Services Website:


[1] First sporadic Covid-19 case in Malaysia.

[2] Malaysia extends MCO by another two weeks to April 28.

[3] COVID-19 live updates: Total number of cases passes 4.2 million.

[4] Malaysia Coronavirus update with statistics and graphs.

[5]  COVID-19 in Prisons and Jails in the United States.

[6]  UNODC, WHO, UNAIDS and OHCHR joint statement on COVID-19 in prisons and other closed settings.

[7] UCLA COVID-19 Behind Bars Data Project @uclaprisondata tweets on 16 May 2020.

[8]  Prevention and control of COVID-19 in prisons and other places of detention.

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