This is a question foremost in the minds of many in Penang: can our Covid-19 cases eventually drop?
News that broke on August 31, 2021 only confirmed the fears of many, as the Ministry of Health (MOH) published the latest data on variants sequenced. Penang chalked up the second highest number of Delta cases, with 31 out of a total of 265, detected during the period of August 16 to 29.
This can explain, to a significant extent, the steady rise of cases in Penang throughout August, from a low of 667 on August 2 to record highs of 2,054 and 2,078 on August 24 and 26 respectively. Cases detected via various types of screenings have also increased significantly across the board.
As usual, blame is accorded to factory cases, which would naturally make up the bulk of active clusters. Yet, upon closer scrutiny of sporadic and non-sporadic cases, it is obvious the majority of cases are still from the unlinked ones, making up 85.9 per cent compared to 14.1 per cent from cluster cases.
There has been a significant rise of unlinked cases; from as low as 36.3 per cent (June 22 to July 8), then increasing to 73.9 per cent (July 9 to 31), and now hitting 85.9 per cent.
On the other hand, looking at the total from cluster cases, the percentage of factory cases constituted 75.5 per cent of cluster cases (June 22 to July 8), up to 81.9 per cent (July 9 to July 31), and down again to 75 per cent from August 1 to 31. This means the status quo is more or less maintained.
So what does this mean? It means that cases can be found anywhere, not necessarily only at factories. This rise in overall cases also coincided with a rise in forwarded fake news, associating Delta variant cases to various localities like Pulau Tikus, Farlim, or even the Little India area, which has all been roundly disproved.
Sadly, we can expect more forwarding of such fake news that coincides with the 31 Delta cases just reported last night.
The question is, is there light at the end of the tunnel? Can cases in Penang eventually drop?
If we are being honest, it is unlikely to drop in the coming days at least, or even a week or two.
But let us take comfort from what is happening now in the Klang Valley. The latest data shows a significant drop in Covid-19 patients in Klang Valley hospitals, up to a 50 per cent drop in patients warded.
This has been attributed to Operation Surge Capacity, initiated in mid-July when both Selangor and Kuala Lumpur were showing a steady rise in cases. The ramped-up vaccination programme has helped to increase the number from 71.4 per cent of the adult population with at least one vaccine dose or 23.5 per cent fully vaccinated on July 22 in Selangor, to 96.7 per cent of the adult population with at least one vaccine dose or 37.5 per cent fully vaccinated by August 2.
Operation Surge Capacity for the Klang Valley officially ended on August 2, but its desired effects only kicked in around 20 days later. Selangor cases topped 8,377 on August 8, before dropping from August 22 onwards to a low of 3,567 on August 30.
Allowing a full two weeks (or more) after the second vaccine dose to qualify as fully vaccinated is needed to allow time for antibodies to build up in response to the vaccine.
Meanwhile, in Penang, as of August 29, the vaccination numbers show 82.8 per cent of the adult population with at least one vaccine dose or 54.6 per cent fully vaccinated.
The numbers are already comparable to Selangor on August 2. We look to a further improvement in vaccination numbers, what more with the latest contribution of vaccines from the Selangor state government to Penang.
As they say, give it time. We will and we must surely overcome this predicament we are in. Besides diligently doing our individual part to adhere to SOPs, vaccination looks like the best way forward.
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