KUALA LUMPUR, April 13 — Health authorities believe Malaysia may be in a recovery phase now during the Covid-19 epidemic, expecting the lockdown to reduce cases and perhaps even end the outbreak.
Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said global financial services firm JP Morgan previously predicted a peak of 6,300 coronavirus cases by tomorrow, but Malaysia has only reported 4,817 official cases as of today.
“Hopefully, touchwood, we can bring it down to 5,000 cases [by tomorrow], which means our action of MCO (Movement Control Order) 1 and 2 is working,” he told a press conference today, referring to the first two phases of the MCO that was imposed on March 18.
The third phase of the MCO is from April 15 to April 28.
“Now, perhaps we’re in a recovery phase, but we’re still monitoring closely because we have not managed to bring it down further. So we need to bring it down further,” Dr Noor Hisham said.
“This is why the third MCO is very important for us to bring down further. If we can do that, there’s a possibility we can reduce the cases, not only flatten the curve, but a possibility for us to end Covid-19 in this country. It’s not only depending on Ministry of Health (MOH), but it depends on all of us. If all of us can work together, I’m sure we can do that.”
MOH reported 134 new Covid-19 cases today, as well as one new death. The total deaths from coronavirus in Malaysia has hit 77 cases. As of today, 66 Covid-19 patients are in the intensive care unit (ICU), out of which 36 are on ventilator support. The number of new recoveries today at 168 exceeded the 134 new infections.
The Health DG also explained why MOH has not embarked on community-wide mass testing for coronavirus.
He said MOH has screened 83,488 people today, out of which 5.8 per cent, or 4,817 people, tested positive for Covid-19, below the World Health Organization’s (WHO) benchmark of a 10 per cent positivity rate. A rate higher than that indicates insufficient testing to catch all cases in the community.
Malaysia’s 5.8 per cent test positivity rate is from testing patients-under-investigation, close contacts of confirmed Covid-19 patients, and Malaysians returning home from overseas evacuation missions.
Dr Noor Hisham highlighted, in contrast, MOH’s experience of mass testing in areas under the Enhanced Movement Control Order (EMCO), like certain villages in Simpang Renggam, Johor, and Hulu Langat, Selangor, where all residents in those communities are tested, regardless of whether they show symptoms or not, or whether they belong to high-risk groups.
MOH found a test positivity rate of only 0.5 per cent by testing all residents living in EMCO areas.
“In that sense, we believe that in the community, we’re able to do much more, whether we should test test test for everybody, or we prefer to do test test test for a targeted group, targeted site, targeted high-risk group,” said Dr Noor Hisham.
“Perhaps we can get a better outcome with the limited resources we have, then we can focus into that area, we can focus into that high-risk group, and perhaps that’s high impact, reasonable cost with our limited resources that we have and good outcome, rather than we screen everybody in that community.”
The median of daily new official Covid-19 infections since April 4 is 142 cases.
Dr Noor Hisham said the first two phases of the MCO showed positive results as Covid-19 cases did not surge exponentially, but stressed that Malaysia was still trying to reduce the number of infections.
“If you look at the graph, we have flattened the curve for exponential cases, but we’re still in the fight to reduce the number of cases, and if possible, end Covid-19 cases.”