The Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Covid-19 Vaccine Supply Access Guarantee Special Committee (JKJAV) must take the necessary steps to ramp up both our Covid-19 testing and of vaccination rate, in view of the worsening conditions in our country, and to prepare a proper exit strategy after this current Movement Control Order (MCO) in West Malaysia and enhanced Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) in Sabah and Sarawak.
Based on statistics released, there was a huge drop in nationwide testing on the first day of Hari Raya, from 87,458 the day before to 83,974 people tested on Day One (May 13), and a further reduction to 56,440 people on Day Two (May 14), and 47,480 on Day Three (May 15). The positive rate on Day One was at 5.78 per cent, and it went up on Day Two to 7.32 per cent, and 8.72 per cent on Day Three, which is above the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations of below 5 per cent.
Malaysia’s average positive rate from May 10 to May 15 is at 6.83 per cent, which is still higher than WHO recommendations. This clearly shows that we are not testing enough, which also means that the daily numbers may not clearly reflect the real disease burden on the ground.
Such trends are not new, and has been observed for the past few weeks. Such inadequate testing has led to a surge of severe coronavirus cases nationwide, amid full or near-capacity Covid-19 intensive care units (ICU) across the Klang Valley, Kelantan, Sarawak, Johor, and Penang, and contributed to the high mortality numbers over the last few days.
Only by ramping up our testing and tracing capacity significantly will we know how many carriers are out there who can spread the virus, and then take the necessary steps to isolate them, preventing the risk of them further spreading the virus.
This is important, especially with 89 per cent of Covid-19 cases reported from April 9 to May 8 being sporadic. Nearly nine out of 10 Covid-19 cases in Malaysia in the past month were unlinked, which means that the virus is widespread in the community, and the only way to detect carriers is through mass testing, quick contact tracing and isolation, and also providing the necessary support.
On top of that, mass testing enables people with Covid-19 to be diagnosed earlier, isolated and treated early, to prevent seriously ill cases and deaths. The slower we test and diagnose them, the higher likelihood they will be brought in late with more severe complications, thus increasing the risk of death.
We urge the government to run large-scale community screening initiatives in high-risk areas identified with proper data, using RTK Antigen for fast screening, and to implement automated contact tracing, quick isolation and provide all necessary support (FTTIS).
The government should mass-test all residents to enable early detection and treatment of cases, rather than late detection that leads to overcapacity of hospital ICU and a spike in Covid-19 deaths.
Of concern as well is how the vaccination rate drastically dropped during the Raya period. Now that Raya is over, the government must increase the vaccination drive.
With the detection of different variants in our country, it is even more important that we speed up vaccinations, so as to not provide a conducive environment for the virus to mutate further.
That is why the government must prioritise at all costs the third MCO and enhanced CMCO, so that we can outpace the rate of transmission of the virus and nip the problem in the bud.
If we do not get this right, we might end up heavily relying on a lockdown strategy that does not solve the problem and comes at a heavy cost to the livelihoods of the people.
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