MOH Aims Below 500 Daily Covid Cases, Now Testing All Close Contacts

Health DG Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah’s Feb 17 circular cancelled his earlier Jan 13 circular on only testing symptomatic close contacts of positive Covid-19 cases.

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 23 — The Ministry of Health (MOH) plans to reduce Covid-19 infections to fewer than 500 confirmed cases a day nationwide in Malaysia, besides decreasing sporadic cases.

A circular by Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah dated February 17 said MOH’s five main strategies in flattening the Covid-19 epidemiological curve during Malaysia’s State of Emergency also included reducing Covid-19 morbidity and mortality — by preventing deaths among high-risk groups and ensuring that health services run smoothly.

MOH’s third strategy is to strengthen Covid-19 diagnostics and surveillance. Next is to achieve herd immunity by vaccinating 70 per cent of residents in Malaysia.

The fifth strategy is to “increase public awareness of the culture of new norms and compliance with SOPs, and also to restore the people’s confidence and trust in the government,” Dr Noor Hisham said in his internal MOH circular, as sighted by CodeBlue.

Malaysia’s Covid-19 epidemic appears to have slowed down somewhat, averaging at about 2,614 confirmed coronavirus cases on February 16 (five-day moving average), lower than the average 3,444 cases on January 16 (five-day moving average). Official Covid-19 deaths, however, have exceeded 1,050 in the country. 

The Yang di-Pertuan Agong’s Emergency Declaration is set to be in effect until August 1, suspending Parliament and all state legislative assembly sittings. Dr Noor Hisham said in his circular that MOH was instructed to flatten the Covid-19 epidemiological curve, as all government agencies must reach this objective in fewer than six months by utilising all internal resources, or external ones through the Emergency Ordinance. 

In this February 17 circular, the Health DG also cancelled his earlier policies on the management of Covid-19 clusters and close contacts from a January 13 circular.

Dr Noor Hisham’s latest circular now said all close contacts of positive Covid-19 cases must be identified, ordered to undergo home quarantine, and get tested.

“The taking of samples from close contacts can be prioritised for close contacts with symptoms or those from high-risk groups,” he said.

His earlier January 13 circular had mandated Covid-19 testing only on close contacts with symptoms, besides reducing overall testing on clusters to a certain proportion of people exposed to the virus. 

Now, Dr Noor Hisham said close contacts can be tested with either the RT-PCR or antigen rapid test kit (RTK-Ag), depending on the situation. 

RT-PCR testing should be conducted for all identified close contacts if there is sufficient capacity in the field. For localities with above 10 per cent Covid-19 prevalence, RTK-Ag can be used as a diagnostic test without needing a repeat test with RT-PCR.

The Covid-19 prevalence is calculated based on an RT-PCR positive rate (share of tests that are positive) of more or less than 10 per cent, based on a rolling seven-day average.

“However, the use of RTK-Ag as a diagnostic test must get the agreement of the state health department and informed to the National CPRC (Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre) for the reporting of cases,” said Dr Noor Hisham.

He added that a second sample must be taken from close contacts of positive Covid-19 cases — on Day Eight of their 10-day home surveillance order.

Employers must ensure that their workers self-isolate pending the results of their mandatory Covid-19 screening, besides prohibiting workers who test positive for the coronavirus from going to work.

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