KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 11 — Covid-19 testing in public health facilities should be expanded to secondary contacts of positive cases, Senator Liew Chin Tong said today.
“Health Ministry needs to drop the idea that only people with symptoms should be tested. We should make testing at public facilities as easy as possible in which all secondary contacts can get a test if they wish to do so,” Liew said in a statement.
“Not just those in direct contact with Covid-19 positive cases.”
A secondary contact is someone who was in close contact with a person who had close contact with a confirmed Covid-19 case.
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has maintained a targeted testing strategy by only screening close contacts of positive cases, patients under investigation, severe acute respiratory illness patients, and pre-operative screening among others.
Liew also told the government to test more prisoners and foreign workers in crowded dormitories, as he said that these two main sources of positive cases should be given top national priorities to contain the spread of Covid-19.
Besides that, the DAP national political education director pointed out that MOH’s daily reporting that simply focuses on the daily number of new Covid-19 cases is meaningless, as this only reflects the number of tests being conducted.
“If we do more tests and contact tracing, we will have a much bigger number but truthful reflection of the situation,” Liew stressed.
“The Health Ministry’s fixation on the daily case number is the wrong KPI (Key Performance Index). If we test more we will get a higher number for a while. Do not fear. Better to know the true situation than to tricking ourselves with a false reality.”
He said that one should be more worried that MOH hasn’t done enough tests and does not have effective contact tracing, rather than complaining about the high number of Covid-19 cases.
“Despite having more than 2,000 cases averagely lately, I believe the number of reported cases is far short of what is really the case due to limited testing and contact tracing.”
According to the US-based Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center, Malaysia’s daily Covid-19 test positivity rate (seven-day moving average) is 8.27 per cent, higher than the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended 5 per cent. This means that Malaysia is not testing enough as only the sickest patients who seek medical attention are detected, while people without Covid-19 symptoms are missed.
Liew said that rapid antigen tests should be made affordable and encouraged as widely as possible.
He suggested for the private health sector to be roped in to expand testing efforts rapidly and at an affordable price for the public.
Liew also said that not all positive cases without symptoms will require isolation at a hospital or medical facility. Hence, he said that those who have sufficient private spaces can be quarantined at home, but with a proper standard operating porcurdere.
Furthermore, Liew said that a lockdown should be the last resort and not the first response.
“A lockdown now feels more like a knee jerk reaction than anything else,” he said.
“Even with relatively successful rollout of vaccine, Covid-19 would not go away for at least another nine months and up to 18 more months. Everyone should be told this fact so that they can adjust and adapt without panic or knee jerk reactions.”
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is scheduled to announce at 6pm today new lockdown measures for the country to stem the surge of Covid-19 cases that numbered above 2,000 daily for the past six days.
“There is no livelihood nor economic recovery if we can’t deal with Covid-19 decisively. The lives versus livelihood dichotomy is false,” Liew added.
“If the government has to incur costs to ramp up testing capacity, hire huge number of temporary contact tracers, hire more medical practitioners to help rollout vaccines etc, please spend and spend like no tomorrow, as long as the spending is accountable and with no corruption. If money can limit the spread of Covid-19, spend, don’t save!”