This study aimed to describe the characteristics of COVID-19 cases and close contacts during the first wave of COVID-19 in Malaysia (23 January 2020 to 26 February 2020), and to analyse the reasons why the outbreak did not continue to spread and lessons that can be learnt from this experience. Characteristics of the cases and close contacts, spatial spread, epidemiological link, and timeline of the cases were examined. An extended SEIR model was developed using several parameters such as the average number of contacts per day per case, the proportion of close contact traced per day and the mean daily rate at which infectious cases are isolated to determine the basic reproduction number (R0 ) and trajectory of cases. During the first wave, a total of 22 cases with 368 close contacts were traced, identified, tested, quarantine and isolated. Due to the effective and robust outbreak control measures put in place such as early case detection, active screening, extensive contact tracing, testing and prompt isolation/quarantine, the outbreak was successfully contained and controlled. The SEIR model estimated the R0 at 0.9 which further supports the decreasing disease dynamics and early termination of the outbreak. As a result, there was a 11-day gap (free of cases) between the first and second wave which indicates that the first wave was not linked to the second wave.


This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

Cite as

Ghazali, S., Singh, S., Zulkifli, A., Cheong, Y., Md Iderus, N., Md Zamri, A., Ahmad Jaafar, N., Lai, C., Wan Mohamed Noor, W., Rusli, N., Chong, C., Aris, T., Ibrahim, H., Dass, S. & Gill, B. 2022, 'COVID-19 in Malaysia: Descriptive Epidemiologic Characteristics of the First Wave', International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(7), article no: 3828. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19073828

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Last updated: 28 June 2023
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