Sarawak’s Severe Under Testing Masks True Covid-19 Outbreak: MP

Sarawak has been recording Covid-19 test positive rates of 8%-14% for the past week, hitting 14.49% on May 2, exceeding the recommended 5% rate, says Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii.

KUALA LUMPUR, May 3 — Sarawak’s Covid-19 outbreak may be worse than official figures due to severe under testing, Dr Kelvin Yii said, as the state reported a 14.49 per cent test positive rate yesterday.

The Bandar Kuching MP said Sarawak ran 4,050 tests yesterday, of which 587 positive Covid-19 cases were reported. 

Sarawak has reported high positive rates ranging from 8 per cent to 14 per cent for the past week, he added. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a positive rate below 5 per cent for at least two weeks before countries consider reopening.

Based on seven-day moving averages, Sarawak has been consecutively recording more than 500 new Covid-19 cases daily for nearly three weeks since April 13. 

Dr Yii also pointed out that Sarawak’s Covid-19 incidence rate is among the highest in Malaysia. Sarawak reported the country’s second-highest seven-day incidence rate in the week of April 23 to 29 at 136.71 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, behind Kelantan, more than double the nationwide rate of 61.89 cases per 100,000 population. 

Sarawak also recorded 3,867 new Covid-19 cases that week, second highest in Malaysia after Selangor’s 5,881 infections.

“The Health Ministry and Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) must ramp up our testing capacity in view of the increasing cases here in Sarawak to give a better picture of the Covid-19 situation, as well as be transparent with such data, especially when making the decision to impose another round of MCO (Movement Control Order) or not,” Dr Yii said in a statement today.

For the first time in the epidemic, Covid-19 has hit every district in Sarawak after the district of Simunjan, the last green zone, reported one local coronavirus infection yesterday.

“We have basically failed to take proactive measures to protect our green zones and now every district, including those in the rural areas where health facilities are lacking, are affected,” said Dr Yii.

An aggressive ramp-up in testing, he said, can enable authorities to detect cases quickly and undertake close contact tracing and isolation within 48 hours. 

The DAP lawmaker acknowledged that a form of “circuit breaker” may be needed in certain districts, but not the whole of Sarawak, amid rumours of an impending state-wide MCO. He suggested barring inter-district and inter-zone travel in the country’s largest state.

He further criticised SDMC’s decision to allow Ramadan bazaars and night markets in certain areas, even in high-risk ones. 

“If there is an implementation of MCO 3.0, there must also be a better exit strategy in place. We cannot keep on implementing MCO and expecting it to address the issue as it comes at a high economic cost. The government should look at also helping all industries that are going to be affected,” said Dr Yii.

“SDMC should also be transparent with their communications with the public. I understand the need to not create panic, but keeping on the narrative that everything is under control and doing the same old steps over and over again expecting a different result is like burying their head in the sand.”

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