KUALA LUMPUR, May 7 – The new Covid-19 surge hitting multiple states in Malaysia has claimed an increasing number of young people’s lives, with such fatalities exceeding those aged 55 to 64 in the past five weeks.
According to Ministry of Health (MOH) data, 66 people aged 25 to 54 years died from Covid-19 from March 31 to May 4 this year, higher than 58 coronavirus-related fatalities among people aged 55 to 64 in the same period.
Older citizens aged 65 and above still comprised the majority at 59.5 per cent, or 184, of the 309 Covid-19 deaths reported in that five-week period.
The number of new Covid-19 deaths among people aged 25 to 54 years rose by 3.4 times from eight deaths in the week of March 31 to April 6, to 27 fatalities in the week of April 28 to May 4. The total number of new coronavirus-related deaths also more than tripled from 35 to 112 fatalities in the space of just a month.
This must ring alarm bells to many, especially to MOH, as it means the age demographics of those vulnerable to death has changed (perhaps with the new variant?). This must also change the way the ministry chooses to mitigate the Covid-19 situation in the country.
Details Of Covid-19 Deaths Among Age Group Of 25-54 Years
From the total of 309 Covid-19 deaths seen from March 31 to May 4, about 21.36 per cent (or 66 deaths) came from the 25-to-54 age group. This outnumbered the total deaths we saw in the 55-to-64 age group (18.77 per cent of all deaths in the stipulated time).
This is rather strange as we know that the higher the age, the more susceptible a person is towards dying from Covid-19. With these numbers, it doesn’t seem to be the case. We therefore decided to conduct an in-depth analysis of those who were dying from the 25-to-54 age group.
From the above table, we can see that the people dying in the 25-to-54 age group were mainly male (nearly two thirds), mostly Malaysian, and were from Sarawak (one-third).
The distribution according to states was no surprise as the top four, includes the states with a high availability of jobs for that age group. However, it was a bit confusing to see Kuala Lumpur at number six – this could be because Selangor and Kuala Lumpur Covid-19 cases are mostly transferred to Selangor hospitals for Covid-19 hospital management.
From the table above, it was worrying to note that about more than one in five of those who passed away in the age group had died before obtaining medical care (brought-in-dead), while 77 per cent had underlying medical issues.
When the type of comorbidities were explored, we found that the top three underlying health conditions of adults aged 25 to 54 who died from Covid-19 with were hypertension (nearly half), diabetes (one-third), and a quarter had obesity.
Why Are Younger People Dying From Covid-19?
With Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah announcing that the South African strain (B.1.351) being isolated as early as December 2020 in the community, and with the current increase in the case number/ intensive care unit (ICU) cases/ deaths, we must ask ourselves this:
- Is the new strain causing more cases?
- Is the new strain causing more deaths, especially among the younger age group?
- The virus has mutated – why isn’t our mitigation process not evolving as well?
Knowing now that the strain of virus might be very much different from what we were dealing with in the past, shouldn’t we perhaps utilise this factor of science, analyse data like we’ve done in this write-up, and perhaps change the way we are handling this pandemic?
One of the reasons these younger age groups are getting infected is that they might be exposed at work. As published in a previous article, workplace clusters account for a high amount of virus spread in this country.
Perhaps the mitigation process must look into workplace clusters and control (which includes schools where teachers, gardeners, guards etc are people commonly exposed to the public and might bring it into the schools), instead of locking down the entire district.
The mitigation should be extremely focused – within buildings, within workplaces and within communities’ area of stay, not the entire district. One of the proper mitigation methods done by different governments are by the Hong Kong government. They decided to track or lock down buildings based on faecal/ sewage sampling on a daily basis. The moment it surpassed the safety mark, the building was closed and everyone within there were asked to test and quarantine. This is amongst a few ways that we can now balance life and livelihood.
With the increasing number of Covid-19 deaths among the 25-to-54 age groups, perhaps the number of cases among them is also increasing (as discussed above). Perhaps it is high time that the government consider vaccinating the workforce on a first-come-first-served basis, so that we can curb this problem by the scruff of the neck.
The recent opening of registrations for the AstraZeneca vaccine was nothing short of a brilliant stroke of a genius by the vaccine community. The uptake of the vaccine by Malaysians (opting to take the vaccine despite the rumours going about) is very encouraging. With this, why not offer vaccines on first-come first-served?
Won’t this help us achieve herd immunity faster? Stop with the unnecessary restrictions for doctors (especially in the private sector) from being involved in vaccinating the community. Asking them to spend a good RM5,000 for a setup (which they probably won’t use again in future) and going through all the trouble to vaccinate the community is crazy.
Perhaps consider a daily supply of vaccines to the clinic itself and allow them to keep it in their regular vaccine fridges over the day is a more feasible idea. Whatever it is, we have to ramp up our mitigation and vaccination process.
I have not even begun talking about the numbers registered and turn-ups for Covid-19 vaccines in other countries. Let us strike while the iron is hot.
We need to reduce Covid-19 cases in government hospitals. Our health care workforce is exhausted. If we don’t mitigate better, we have lost before the fourth wave peaks.
Note: CodeBlue is publishing this analysis anonymously because the author says: “Malaysia today punishes those who want to put things right”.
Correction note: Two mistakes were made in the graphics on the demographics and death characteristics of Covid-19 deaths aged 25 to 54 years. Majority (51) of the victims actually had comorbidities, while 11 victims came from Sabah, not 14. The graphics have been corrected.