KUALA LUMPUR, August 4 — Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii has questioned how the Ministry of Health (MOH) confirms a Covid-19 infection through the RT-PCR test.
He noted that the RT-PCR test detects three genes (E, N, and RdRp) for SARS-CoV-2 infection, the virus that causes Covid-19, and that some countries only quarantine and conduct contact tracing if just one gene is found, but do not declare such people as official Covid-19 patients.
“I would like to ask the Ministry, what is the government’s approach to classifying a case as positive? Does the person only need the presence of just one gene, or at least two genes?” Dr Yii asked during his debate on the King’s Speech in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.
“I hope the government is transparent with this data so that the people know the actual case statistics and there is no perception about trying to hide something,” the DAP lawmaker added.
Dr Yii also asked about the government’s plan on preventing a third wave of Covid-19 in Malaysia, especially to avoid virus spread among asymptomatic carriers, citing the coronavirus outbreak in Victoria, Australia, that has announced a “state of disaster”.
During these times, mental illnesses have been on the rise, which Dr Yii warned could be the next silent pandemic. Loss of jobs, economic instability and personal financial problems are factors that lead to depression and anxiety.
Dr Yii asked the government about its progress to amend Section 309 of the Penal Code that punishes attempted suicide with maximum one year’s imprisonment, or a fine, or both.
“We need to ensure that they get the right attention, therapy, or additional support, and not worsen their condition by sending them to prison,” said the Sarawakian MP.
Dr Yii, who was previously infected with Covid-19 himself, shared that former Covid-19 patients and their family members face emotional stress as they are stigmatised by the public. The stress of recovering from the virus is just part of the psychological burden that they have to face, besides social stigma.
“The perception is that index cases are the cause or source of infection, even though for most of these cases, the source [of infection] still can’t be identified,” he said.
“But if we look at comments on social media, we see all kinds of toxic and unhelpful comments, like ‘super-spreader, murderer, huge sin’.”
From his own experience with the coronavirus and from others in an ex-Covid-19 patient support group, Dr Yii said MOH graphics on Covid-19 clusters, which show various cases branching out from an index case, could cause “spreaders guilt”, even though coronavirus transmission isn’t the fault of infected people who do not want to infect others, especially if it results in death.
“I understand that the information is important for epidemiological studies, contact tracing, and the like, and the government wants to be transparent with current data, but maybe the Ministry can reconsider the method of delivering the information.
“Perhaps we can put the index case [together with other cases] in a group, instead of using a flow chart, because the arising perception is not constructive. Not everyone understands what an index case means,” Dr Yii said.
An index case simply means the first documented case in a cluster, not necessarily that the person infected others.