KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 1 — Former Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr Milton Lum estimates two undetected cases for every person diagnosed with Covid-19, amid high positive rates suggesting under-testing of the epidemic.
Through the 33rd and 34th epidemiological weeks from August 15 to 28, Malaysia averaged about 21,500 reported daily coronavirus infections with a 13.9 per cent positive rate, based on the number of tests conducted.
“For everyone that is tested positive, there are two fellows out there spreading the condition maybe unknowingly,” Dr Lum said at the launch of a book titled “Malaysian Health Care: Maladies and Remedies” last Saturday published by the Federation of Private Medical Practitioners’ Associations, Malaysia (FPMPAM).
“I think the biggest reason for our failure to contain it is the lack of testing and consequential contact tracing.”
Dr Lum’s projection is more conservative than Greater Klang Valley Special Task Force chief and Health deputy director-general Dr Chong Chee Kheong who estimated last month three undetected cases for every confirmed Covid-19 case.
Malaysia’s Covid-19 positive rate, based on the daily number of people tested, remained above 10 per cent from July 21 according to a rolling seven-day average, hitting about 15 per cent yesterday.
At the state level, in the past epidemiological week from August 22 to 28, eleven states and Kuala Lumpur recorded seven-day average positive rates exceeding 10 per cent, including Sabah, Kedah, Kelantan, and Perlis that reported positive rates above 20 per cent.
With the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended positive rate of less than five per cent, this means that Malaysia may not be testing enough to capture mild or asymptomatic Covid-19 cases, detecting only people with symptoms or severe conditions.
“We have placed a lot of reliance on vaccination, which is not the answer, but just one of the answers,” Dr Lum added.
“There has been too early and liberal opening up of a large part of the country, particularly in areas where the health care facilities will not be able to cope with an increase in a number of cases.”
In addition, Dr Lum highlighted unsuccessful crisis communication as one of the failed containment measures of Covid-19 in the country.
He said that communication between policymakers, health care professionals, and the general public was not aligned properly and the “flip-flop” in government policies led to the growth of the coronavirus epidemic.