KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 5 — Countries that treat Covid-19 like a common flu and say there’s an acceptable level of infection are mistaken, an international public health expert said.
Devi Sridhar, professor and chair of Global Public Health, told a conference by the International AIDS Society (IAS) on Covid-19 prevention that having an acceptable level of infection is the wrong way to go as Covid-19 is different from flu; the coronavirus is very infectious.
“What is an acceptable level of infection or an acceptable level of death and can we put a number on it?” Devi said.
“What is an acceptable level of infection and how do you set the bar when you set it, what do you do and constantly go over it when it happens?
“It seems like you know in certain countries they have gone from elimination for very low numbers, there is no acceptable level, whereas other countries have tried to treat it like flu and say we have a number of people who die of flu and we don’t shut down society.
“So is there an acceptable level of infection? And that seems to be a wrong way to pitch the problem because we know it’s completely different from flu, very infectious,” the public health expert said.
Devi said that with the rising strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, 2021 is going to make 2020 look like a walk in the park.
The public health expert said that countries will have to continue with measures to suppress Covid-19 virus transmission and not use the idea of herd immunity with everyone getting infected as a strategy.
She also highlighted how there’s a tension in individual countries in deciding between health and economic policy, while debating the implementation of lockdowns.
A similar situation was seen in Malaysia during the first Movement Control Order (MCO) implemented back in March last year, causing almost 100,000 Malaysians to lose their jobs. Rising unemployment could potentially be seen again during the current similar MCO implemented this year.
Unacceptable For Kids To Have ‘Zoom’ Schools For Months
Devi said it is not exactly true that children are Covid-19 superspreaders, noting that younger children transmit the virus less, compared to older children.
“We know that clearly, as we haven’t seen many outbreaks in primary schools or nurseries,” Devi told the panel on “Policy choices and impacts: Effects of lockdowns, border closures, and other non-pharmacological intervention”.
“For me, it’s unacceptable for kids to have Zoom schools for months,” she added, referring to the video conferencing platform.
She said that students should be going back to schools as quickly as possible but transmission of Covid-19 should be controlled, in which there shouldn’t be an exponential increase in Covid-19 cases, but flattening the epidemiological curve and decreasing growth.
Secondly, she said there should be a functional test, trace, isolation system in place in schools.
“So, when cases are picked up in schools, testing is there and then you can get the kids out quickly in isolation, so you don’t end up with lots of kids especially in high schools becoming infected.”