KUALA LUMPUR, March 1 — Muhyiddin Yassin has estimated a few months to “flatten the curve of Covid-19” in Malaysia through continued movement restrictions, vaccination, and compliance with standard operating procedures (SOPs).
The prime minister presumably means fully controlling Covid-19 transmission and driving daily reported infections to a minimal level. Flattening the virus’ epidemiological curve simply means slowing the rate of transmission to avoid overburdening the health care system; Malaysian hospitals have increased bed capacity for weeks now.
“We succeeded in flattening the curve in the first wave, tackled the second wave, and now, daily cases in the third Covid-19 wave are showing a declining trend,” Muhyiddin told a broadcast address today on the first anniversary of the Perikatan Nasional government.
“Besides that, our country’s health care system is not only able to sustain, but is even more effective in treating Covid-19 patients. The Covid-19 case fatality rate in Malaysia is among the lowest in the world at 0.4 per cent, while more than 90 per cent of those infected have fully recovered.”
The prime minister highlighted the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) goal of vaccinating at least 126,000 individuals across 600 Covid-19 vaccination sites nationwide. The government targets inoculating 80 per cent of the population, or 26 million adults, for free.
Despite Malaysia having a low Covid-19 case fatality rate worldwide, the death rate has been increasing in Malaysia. A total of 471 people died from Covid-19 by last December 31. In just two months since, the virus killed 659 people in Malaysia.
Public health expert Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman said yesterday that Malaysia has already passed the containment phase of the Covid-19 epidemic and entered mitigation, as there is widespread transmission of the virus in the community.
The goal of the mitigation phase is no longer to completely control transmission of the coronavirus or to achieve a minimal number of infections — through containment strategies like lockdowns — but to prevent severe disease and death from Covid-19.
Hence, the former Health deputy director-general of public health urged the government to end the Movement Control Order (MCO) and lift interstate or inter-district travel restrictions. The MCO and various forms of the lockdown across states are scheduled to end on March 4, but Muhyiddin said today that international and interstate travel would not be permitted until a certain proportion of the population has been vaccinated against Covid-19.
Dr Lokman also disputed official claims that the reduction of daily Covid-19 cases was due to the MCO enforced since January 13, pointing out that testing has reduced since the third epidemiological week of this year. Malaysia’s positive rate (share of tests that are positive) has also exceeded the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 5 per cent threshold since late last year.
Muhyiddin added today that the government was conducting a comprehensive study on the country’s health care system, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, even though multiple studies have already been done in previous years.
This new study will comprise two phases on projections and needed actions until 2030.
He said the first phase currently being conducted aims to evaluate the country’s health care system in an open and objective manner.
“The second phase will produce an action plan that details all the actions needed to be taken to achieve the objective of creating a solid health care system that is prepared to face pressures in the future.”