Experts Fear Covid-19 Surge With Raya Home Visits

If the coronavirus infection rate stays at 1 or less than 1, not many Covid-19 waves may occur.

KUALA LUMPUR, May 21 — Medical experts have expressed concern about a possible surge of coronavirus cases after Hari Raya since home visits are allowed during the celebration.

They noted that the current reproductive rate (or R0, pronounced R-naught) of Covid-19 in Malaysia is staying at one or less than one. This means that the average person getting the disease will infect one other person, indicating that Covid-19 is spreading, but at a stable rate.

“If you take the fact that…our reproductive rate is one or less than one, then hopefully we won’t see as many waves.

“But it all remains to be seen on how people behave in the next few weeks,” said Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman, dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Malaya (UM), at a virtual talk with Dr Fredrick L. Altice, a professor of medicine and public health from Yale University, that was organised by the United States embassy this morning.

However, she also emphasised the possibility of rising Covid-19 cases, citing the outbreak in Wuhan, China, during the festive season.

“Remembering the outbreak in Wuhan, was also associated around the time of Chinese New Year. It’s not just the visiting to individual houses, but also being in crowded places such as bus terminal, and public places where a lot of people gather and fomites are contaminated,” said Dr. Adeeba at the talk titled “#VirtualTalk UM and Yale: The Race to Covid’s End”.

Fomites are inanimate objects that can become contaminated with a virus, such as elevator buttons or door handles.

Earlier, the Ministry of Health (MOH) clarified that although 20 visitors are allowed at one’s home during the first day of Hari Raya, only family members are permitted to visit. However, at the same time, health authorities also urged Malaysians not to do any visiting at all to mitigate Covid-19 transmission among vulnerable group, like elderly persons, children, and people with disabilities.

The authorities have banned interstate travel ahead of Hari Raya, although students have been permitted to return to their hometowns. Yesterday, MOH reported that new Covid-19 cases have appeared in Kelantan and Kedah — both green zones without any coronavirus infections. A new case was also detected in Terengganu, largely green except for Besut with four active cases.

At the same time, Dr Altice from Yale University also stated that people should create limited social circles during the festive season.

“If you are going to celebrate Hari Raya, if you could have a consistent group of people who are coming back on the day-by-day basis in order to limit this larger network, that will have the greatest impact if you should have an outbreak,” he said.

MOH yesterday reported the ninth consecutive day of daily coronavirus cases below 50. Malaysia’s total confirmed coronavirus cases has hit 7,009, with 114 deaths.

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