Parliament Committee: Malaysia Not Ready For Endemic Covid-19 Transition

The Dewan Rakyat health, science and innovation committee says the government must first boost ICU capacity, implement an effective testing strategy, and digitise contact tracing.

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 1 — Parliament’s health, science and innovation committee today told the government that the country is not yet prepared to fully transition into the stage of living with Covid-19 as an endemic disease.

The Dewan Rakyat special select committee offered recommendations to the government after tabling its first report in Parliament this morning titled: “Transitioning from Pandemic to to Endemic Covid-19 Safely and Sustainably”.

“Based on data provided by the Ministry, the committee made the conclusion that we are NOT READY to transition fully until all the necessary steps are taken, including increasing our public health capacity, integrating technology and digitalisation into our public health approach, and mainstreaming our National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme to give as much protection, especially to high-risk groups,” Dr Kelvin Yii, chairman of the health, science and innovation committee, said in a statement.

Dr Yii’s statement did not state what were the parameters used to determine Malaysia’s readiness to transition into the endemic Covid-19 stage.

The health, science and innovation parliamentary committee’s report summarised various Covid-19 issues based on discussions with stakeholders from the Ministry of Health (MOH); the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MOSTI); and external experts of the field, including the Health and Sciences Covid-19 Advisory Group of Experts (EAG) led by former Health director-general Dr Abu Bakar Suleiman.

Among the Dewan Rakyat committee’s recommendations are to increase public health capacity, including boosting capacity for the find, test, trace, isolate, and support (FTTIS) strategy to cope with a potential surge in coronavirus infections.

“This includes increasing ICU (intensive care unit) capacities in all states to provide good quality of care and reduce death rates in case of a surge of cases,” said Dr Yii.

According to MOH’s CovidNow website, average Covid-19 cases increased between 50 per cent and 9 per cent since the past week in Labuan, Perlis, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, the Klang Valley, Melaka, and Kedah.

Hospital admissions of Covid-19 patients also rose between 40 per cent and 5 per cent in Terengganu, Melaka, Pahang, Kedah, Kuala Lumpur, Sabah, Perlis, and Johor over the past week. 

The health, science and innovation parliamentary committee told the government to draft a comprehensive National Testing Strategy for Covid-19 — which Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has yet to issue — that should provide guidance on testing frequency for all sectors and industries.

The committee said effective coronavirus testing required more affordable self-test kits and incentives for the general public to report their test results on the MySejahtera app in order to produce a more accurate positive rate of the epidemic.

In addition, the parliamentary committee recommended upgrades to MySejahtera to expedite hotspot identification, contact tracing, notifications, and quarantine monitoring based on the principle of “speed-scale-equity”.

“Such a comprehensive strategy is important to do localised control in case of an outbreak so that we do not depend on a ‘nationwide full lockdown strategy’, which is not effective and sustainable as it has a high economic cost.”

The health, science and innovation committee called for strategic communications of government policies related to the epidemic to increase public confidence and compliance, besides promoting social responsibility among the public that is necessary for a proper transition into the endemic Covid-19 stage.

Khairy said last September 1 that he targeted the end of October for the country to move into the endemic Covid-19 phase, but he has yet to make a formal announcement on the transition.

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