Vaccines Finally Yield Turning Point In Greater Klang Valley Epidemic

Daily hospital admissions, number of patients in hospital, ICU cases, and infections of Covid-19 in Selangor, KL, Putrajaya, and Negeri Sembilan as a whole dropped in the past few weeks, with half of the Greater Klang Valley’s total population fully vaccinated.

KUALA LUMPUR, August 18 — The Covid-19 epidemic in the Greater Klang Valley has shown early signs of decline in hospitalisation, intensive care unit (ICU) cases, and infections amid high vaccination coverage.

To date, more than half of the total population in the Klang Valley region (Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, and Putrajaya) has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, while Negeri Sembilan is nearing 50 per cent complete vaccination coverage. Together, about half of the Greater Klang Valley population is fully inoculated as a result of Operation Surge Capacity to combat the country’s biggest epidemic in the industrialised region.

Crucial indicators of hospitalisation and ICU rates for Covid-19 patients in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, and Negeri Sembilan as a whole showed a decrease since early this month and mid-July respectively.

Daily hospital admissions for Covid-19 patients in the country’s commercial region dropped 25 per cent from nearly 1,200 cases on July 30 to some 900 on August 14.

The number of hospitalised Covid-19 cases per day in the Greater Klang Valley dropped 9 per cent from about 7,000 on August 4 to about 6,400 on August 14.

In terms of Covid-19 patients requiring critical care, intensive care unit (ICU) cases per day in the central region dropped about 22 per cent from 818 patients on July 13 to 637 patients on August 14.

“It’s too early to celebrate but we can cautiously say that the numbers are coming down — that’s what we’re seeing in the hospitals and other datasets too,” infectious disease expert Prof Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman told CodeBlue.

When asked if this was due to both vaccination and natural immunity from infection, Dr Adeeba said it was a combination of both factors, “but the vaccine effect is probably greater”.

Selangor’s Covid-19 ICU cases dropped since July 31 to just over 100 per cent bed occupancy rates, after much higher rates since June 1. This means that Covid-19 patients took over other ICU beds meant for non-Covid cases. On July 13, Selangor’s Covid-19 ICU bed occupancy rate hit 165 per cent.

The capital city of Kuala Lumpur saw Covid-19 ICU cases drop to below the number of available beds for them from August 13, though close to full capacity, after exceeding 100 per cent bed occupancy rates since early July.

In Negeri Sembilan, Covid-19 ICU bed occupancy rates were far higher than Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, hitting a high of 222 per cent on June 22 after consistently exceeding 100 per cent from June 1. The number of Covid-19 ICU cases declined to a level below the number of available beds from August 12, albeit still near full capacity.

Daily Covid-19 cases declined 33 per cent in the Greater Klang Valley from a peak of more than 12,000 cases on August 6 to about 8,000 cases yesterday.

Reported coronavirus infections, however, are highly dependent on testing — health authorities have focused testing on symptomatic cases in the Greater Klang Valley during the surge of infections that overwhelmed hospitals last month.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) does not reveal testing and positive rates by state. National positive rates exceeded 10 per cent daily since July 21, hitting a record high 15.2 per cent last Monday. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a maximum benchmark 5 per cent rate as an indicator of sufficient testing.

Daily Covid-19 deaths in the Greater Klang Valley have yet to drop, likely due to the two-week period needed after the second vaccine dose for full protection to kick in. In Covid-19 fatalities, it takes about two to three weeks from infection to death.

The region saw a peak of 270 deaths on August 8, an outlier in the trend; on August 13, a total of 192 new fatalities were reported, higher than the 174 deaths reported on August 4.

A medical doctor said he believed that the Greater Klang Valley will begin to see a reduction in Covid-19 deaths in 10 days’ time.

“Generally speaking, we see that when a state hits 33.33 per cent of the total population obtaining two doses and two weeks later (full immunity kicks in), we see deaths drop,” he told CodeBlue on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak as a civil servant.

Dr Adeeba, citing analysis from a group of epidemiologists and data scientists, similarly projected a reduction in Covid-19 mortality a fortnight after complete vaccination of 33.3 per cent of the total population. Covid-19 infections may begin to plateau 14 days after full inoculation of 60 per cent of the total population.

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