KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 11 — Malaysia is projected to experience a continuous rise in Covid-19 cases until mid-March 2021, hitting over 5,000 infections daily from February 25, according to US-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).
The IHME model, which is also used by the Trump administration, predicted 2,987 new coronavirus cases in Malaysia on January 1, increasing to 4,176 Covid-19 infections on February 1, and 5,130 cases on March 1. The trend is projected to rise until March 21 with 5,379 infections that day, and then declining to 5,301 cases on April 1.
IHME projected that Malaysia would see 2,183 new Covid-19 cases on December 10, but the government officially recorded 2,234 new infections yesterday, higher than the projected value.
However, IHME also projected that Malaysia’s Covid-19 cases would continue rising consistently from November 9, which was not officially observed in Malaysia, as some days from November 9, the daily new cases recorded were three-digits instead, and not above 1,400 cases as projected.
For example, on November 14, the IHME model projected that Malaysia would have 1,462 new infections, but the official reported cases were 919. IHME’s predictions of daily infections are based on the number of people it estimates are infected with Covid-19 each day, including those not tested.
Although the Covid-19 cases reported don’t follow the exact value projected by IHME, the number of cases in Malaysia have been on the constant rise. In just three weeks from November 18 when Malaysia reported 50,390 positive Covid-19 cases, the third wave of the epidemic has seen 28,109 coronavirus infections since.
The IHME projection of Covid-19 cases is based on a situation where there’s no Covid-19 vaccine available yet. Malaysia has managed to procure Covid-19 vaccines for 30 per cent of its population so far: 20 per cent from American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc and 10 per cent from the global COVAX facility co-led by the World Health Organization.
Pfizer will be distributing one million doses of its vaccine by the first quarter of next year, only enough to vaccinate 500,000 of the Malaysian population on a two-dose regimen, while the rest of their vaccines will be distributed in the second, third, and fourth quarter of next year.
IHME predicted that if 95 per cent mask usage in Malaysia is achieved, together with a scale-up of vaccine distribution over 90 days, daily Covid-19 infections would in fact peak towards the end of February, but only up to over 2,271 positive cases, and then decline to 1,952 cases on April 1. This is 63 per cent lesser than the projected value of 5,301 infections on April 1 if 95 per cent mask usage is not achieved together with vaccination.
However, it was noted by IHME that since the beginning of the Covid-19 epidemic in Malaysia, the country has only achieved 78 per cent mask usage among the public.
IHME also explored hospital bed use, and the need for intensive care beds and ventilator use due to Covid-19 based on projected deaths.
According to the model, Malaysia’s Covid-19 deaths will also see an exponential increase, touching a total of 1,325 deaths by April 1, 2021. Malaysia has officially reported 396 coronavirus fatalities as of yesterday.
For five months, between May and October, the pattern of Covid-19 deaths in Malaysia remained at plateau between 100 and 200 deaths. However, from October 22, since Malaysia’s death toll passed the 200 mark, the trend of deaths has been consistently increasing. IHME’s model projected Covid-19 fatalities would continue rising until April next year.
The pattern of daily new casualties due to Covid-19 is also projected to rise to a projected number of 10 deaths per day towards the end of February, right up to 12 deaths per day in April.
With the rise in the number of deaths, IHME has projected that Malaysia would need more invasive ventilators, up to around 40 per day by January and 89 per day in April.
Meanwhile, the intensive care units (ICU) beds required is also projected to increase up to 89 per day by the end of March, which is below the actual capacity of ICU beds in Malaysia of 293 beds.
In terms of the usage of masks, the projected use of face coverings by the population will remain plateaued from mid November till April 2021 at 78 per cent, which is lower than the universal mask usage target of 98 per cent.
This projected use of mask is the highest observed mask usage among the public in Malaysia since the beginning of the pandemic. Although highest, there is not much of a difference in improvement in the observed usage of mask as compared to the beginning of the first wave somewhere in April, where the highest observed usage of mask among the public was up to 76 per cent.
In mid-July, there was a dip in the observed usage of masks among the public in Malaysia. During that time, the Covid-19 cases reported in Malaysia were low, at single-digit to two-digit infections each day only.
IHME is an independent population health research centre at UW Medicine, part of the University of Washington.