Mass Test Hotspots And Speed Up Vaccinations — MMA

The government must mass test people in Covid-19 hotspots to prevent further spread of infections in the community.

The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) is urging the government to mass test people in Covid-19 hotspots to prevent further spread of infections in the community.

We also urge the government to do all it can to speed up vaccinating the population especially in Selangor where infections are the highest.

The exponential surge in Covid-19 cases are a clear indication that SOP compliance is at a highly unsatisfactory level. The SOPs are indeed a high priority, however “hoping” for improvements in compliance is not a good plan at this crucial time when cases of Covid-19 are spreading in the community at a much faster rate.

We should not be waiting for cases to pop up. We should be mass testing the community.

We are deeply concerned that with cases of the newer variants already reported in the country, the number of infections and even deaths could rise even higher. Yesterday, there were 6,075 new Covid-19 cases reported.

Community transmissions are high and there has also been an increase in sporadic cases. This is an indication that there are many who are unaware they are infected and are unknowingly spreading infections.

Therefore, there is an urgent need to mass RTK Antigen screen people in all hotspots, quickly isolate the positive cases and trace close contacts to be tested to prevent further community transmission and deaths.

It should be noted that there is also an increase in brought-in-dead (BID) cases at hospitals as stated by the Health Ministry recently.

In areas identified as high risk, vaccinations en masse should be carried out.

We believe more cases will be detected when we test the community. Towards the end of last year when we began testing foreign workers, around 8-10 per cent of workers tested at mostly construction sites and factories were found to be Covid-19 positive. Most of the positive cases were asymptomatic.

Funds will also be needed to immediately increase ICU capacity, medical equipment and resources in public hospitals. Shortages in manpower as well, will need to be urgently addressed.

As the process for hiring full-timers would take too long, MMA has proposed that medical students, nursing students, medical assistants with basic medical knowledge be roped in to assist the District Health Offices (PKDs) and public hospitals with contact tracing and administrative work.

Our country’s medical personnel are overworked from managing the high numbers of Persons Under Investigation (PUI), Persons Under Surveillance (PUS), and Covid-19 patients in Categories One to Five. There are currently 47,340 active cases of Covid-19.

Vaccinating the population also needs to be speeded up. If we continue to struggle with poor SOP compliance, vaccinations will be the solution.

We need to vaccinate as many people as possible especially in hot spots and all vulnerable groups in the quickest time possible. One way to fast track this is via the private general practitioners (GPs).

While there is notable progress in mass vaccinations around the country, disappointingly, there is still a lack of effort to onboard the private GPs as vaccinators in the National Immunisation Programme (NIP).

There are 2,500 GPs registered under ProtectHealth who can participate in Phases Two and Three of the NIP, while a total of 5,000 (GPs and staff) have received training for the programme.

However, only 37 GPs have been on-boarded to conduct the vaccinations. The rest of the trained GPs are waiting to be on-boarded. Vaccinations by the private GPs were targeted to begin in early May.

With 2,500 GPs participating, an additional 75,000 vaccinations per day under the NIP can be carried out. We can expect this number to increase as many other GPs have expressed interest in participating.

The private GPs are an important component in nationwide vaccinations as they are well distributed in the country and close to the community. Many other countries have managed to speed up their vaccination programmes with private GP participation.

MMA applauds the initiative by the Selangor government to provide a way for employers in the state to buy vaccines for their employees. This programme, which will complement government efforts to increase vaccine uptake should be extended to other states.

Aside from this, the Special Committee for Ensuring Access to Covid-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV) should also consider vaccines from other manufacturers that have a proven high efficacy and safety, if there are issues in supplies from Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Sinovac.

Lastly, all Malaysians need to do their part in the fight against Covid-19. MMA supports the concept of “self lockdown”, which the Health Ministry had promoted on social media.

We must all ensure that we observe strict adherence to the SOPs to break the chain of infections. We should only go out only when it is absolutely necessary, plan and buy groceries once a week, and as much as possible, work from home.

The newer variants are more contagious. Do not give the virus the opportunity to infect you and others. Strictly follow the SOPs, the 3Cs and 3Ws, and get vaccinated as soon as possible to ensure you, your family and others are protected.

All these steps can make a huge difference.

Dr Subramaniam Muniandy is president of the Malaysian Medical Association.

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