KUALA LUMPUR, July 15 — Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah forecasts daily Covid-19 cases to dip to under 1,000 by October if Malaysia can ramp up second-dose inoculation to 150,000 per day.
Based on a model the Health director-general shared with the press, the Ministry of Health (MOH) projects new Covid-19 infections to rise by up to a peak of 17,000 a day by mid-August before subsequently declining, assuming that 80 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated by October 31.
If 80 per cent of the population is fully inoculated by December 31, at a rate of about 100,000 second doses daily, MOH projects a continued rise in Covid-19 cases to a peak of 23,000 infections daily by mid-September before a subsequent decline.
Both projections use a 1.2 Rt (reproductive number) of the virus and 75 per cent average vaccine efficacy.
Dr Noor Hisham’s projections of a peak of 17,000 daily Covid-19 cases in only about a month’s time appear optimistic, considering that reported infections rose 22 per cent in just two days from 9,105 cases on July 11 to 11,079 cases on July 13. Yesterday’s tally of 11,618 cases rose 14 per cent to today’s record high 13,215 infections.
“Based on our projection, if we can administer 100,000 doses per day, and implement 150,000 for the second dose (with an average vaccine efficacy rate of 75 per cent), we estimate cases to decline by the end or middle of November.
“But if the average vaccine efficacy rate is 80 per cent and we can implement 150,000 doses per day for the second dose, we expect cases to drop by October to 1,000 per day. It depends on the vaccination,” Dr Noor Hisham said at a media briefing today.
This comes after the country reported 13,215 new infections, a third straight day of record daily cases today. Dr Noor Hisham indicated, however, that the bulk of new cases, or 96 per cent, had mild or asymptomatic infections which can be monitored at home.
Only 4 per cent of today’s new Covid-19 cases were in Categories Three to Five, requiring respiratory support at hospitals. The higher daily Covid-19 caseload was also attributed to increased mass testing, particularly within workplaces, with 135,000 tests recorded today.
Dr Noor Hisham maintained that vaccination is still the only solution to manage the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic, in order for the country to “live with the virus”.
He cited Labuan as an example, saying that the island’s rapid vaccination rate allowed the Delta outbreak to be contained, bringing infections down to just 26 new cases today in less than three weeks. Labuan previously reported daily infections below 250 since June 12, with most days in the triple digits until July 4 with 75 cases.
As of July 14, Labuan has fully vaccinated 52 per cent of its adult population, with 58.7 per cent receiving at least a single Covid-19 vaccine dose. The federal territory has a total population of slightly under 100,000 people.
Labuan’s abating outbreak, however, may also be influenced by natural immunity from previous infection, as the small island recorded 9,331 cumulative Covid-19 cases as of today, which means that 9.4 per cent of Labuan’s population had been infected with the coronavirus.
“We have to use this approach in the Klang Valley,” said Dr Noor Hisham, referring to the vaccination programme.
“We can increase the vaccination rate within a shorter timeframe and as we’ve been informed, a total of five million doses will be channelled to the Klang Valley and 3.1 million of the population has already received at least one dose.
“We will ramp it up to make sure that five million people will be vaccinated with at least a single dose by August 1. If we can do this, the number of cases at hospitals can be reduced,” he said.
As of yesterday, according to the Covid-19 Immunisation Task Force, about 3.3 million people in the Klang Valley have been vaccinated with at least one dose, or 39.6 per cent of the total population.
Vaccine Minister Khairy Jamaluddin previously projected 40 per cent of Malaysia’s total population will be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by the end of August, in line with the National Recovery Plan.
He estimates complete vaccination coverage of 60 per cent of the population by the end of September, slightly earlier than the end of October schedule to move to the last phase in November under the government’s exit strategy.