MOH Gripped By Uncertainty As Covid-19 Cases Soar Above 11,000

Dr Chong Chee Kheong, head of the Greater Klang Valley Task Force, says the Ministry of Health (MOH) is now deliberating between containment or mitigation, noting that vaccination ramp-up can take a month.

KUALA LUMPUR, July 13 — After posting a record high 11,000 new Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours, the Ministry of Health (MOH), for the first time, admitted uncertainty on how to deal with Klang Valley’s surging epidemic.  

Dr Chong Chee Kheong, chairperson of the recently established Greater Klang Valley Task Force under MOH, said the task force, along with a team of external experts, will deliberate on public health measures to cope with the newer and faster spread of the disease underpinned by the Delta variant.

“We need to sit down together with them (external experts) to come up with an agreement on how we should go forward. Should we stick in containment or should we go into mitigation? 

“Whatever our decision, we should succeed together, or we should fail together,” Dr Chong said at a media briefing on the task force today.

“The next approach is to work with the economic sector. We realise the MCO (Movement Control Order) has a lot of negative impact on the economic sector. But at the same time now, if we were to allow them to open up, we must have some way of working with them to make sure that they take more responsibility in ensuring that they form the safe work bubble, the ‘Safe at Work’ implemented by MITI (Ministry of International Trade and Industry), we must make sure they have a system of identifying those cases that fall ill. 

“We do not want people coming late into our health care system. If they come in early, we can treat them. If they come in late, we cannot.”

He added that MOH and the Covid-19 Immunisation Task Force (CITF) would ramp up vaccination, but noted that this could take a few weeks or up to a month.

Ever since the third wave of the epidemic broke out from Sabah late last year, the government has utilised a containment strategy with lockdown measures to reduce daily infections. Various MCOs, however, failed to significantly cut infection, as cases began rising late June after a brief four-week decline from a late-May peak. 

A mitigation strategy focuses on curbing hospitalisation and mortality, rather than on preventing the spread of infection.

Established on July 8, the newly formed task force has been given the mandate to make quick decisions at ground level to alleviate the stress on Klang Valley hospitals. Decisions will include the procurement of equipment and mobilisation of resources such as manpower, oxygen supply, and intensive care (ICU) beds.

MOH has so far added 1,190 health care workers in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Negeri Sembilan, of which 417 are recruited from other states. An additional 5,000 medical workers involving doctors, nurses, and assistant medical workers will be channelled to the Klang Valley, though no timeline was given.

Financially, the MOH has requested an additional RM1.2 billion to accommodate the added costs to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. To date, the ministry has spent over RM700 million to manage the outbreak which involves direct procurements.

“However, this will only bring temporary relief if we don’t solve the problem of the rising trend of cases,” Dr Chong said. “The only solution besides SOPs (standard operating procedures), the best solution is still vaccination.”

Malaysia recorded 11,079 new cases today — an 18 per cent increase from the previous high of 9,353 cases reported on July 11 — bringing the cumulative total to 855,949. Active cases are at 96,236, with 972 under ICU treatment and 456 requiring respiratory assistance.

Another 125 single-day deaths were reported today, the highest daily death toll since 126 fatalities were reported on June 2, raising the cumulative death toll to 6,385.

A total of 6,861 new Covid-19 cases were reported today in the Klang Valley — Selangor (5,263 cases), Kuala Lumpur (1,521 cases), and Putrajaya (77 cases) — plus 1,033 in Negeri Sembilan.

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah attributed the daily rise of Covid-19 cases to increased testing in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Negeri Sembilan, particularly in factories and other workplaces. The latest confirmed figure comes after 52,115 tests were carried out using RTK-Antigen tests.

Dr Noor Hisham expects daily Covid-19 cases to continue rising over the next two weeks before it stabilises, though he did not give a projection on how high the case numbers can go.

MOH officials at today’s press conference did not acknowledge if the health care system in the Klang Valley has already collapsed, after disturbing accounts by frontline medical workers about full wards and shortages of ventilators, oxygen supply, and medication in hospitals.

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