Sabah Testing Asymptomatic People, Covid-19 Vaccine Coverage Underestimated

Khairy Jamaluddin attributes the high number of Covid-19 cases in Sabah to asymptomatic testing; Masidi Manjun says Sabah’s Covid vax rate is higher than officially reported.

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 8 – Sabah today recorded 2,069 new Covid-19 cases, the first time the state broke the 2,000-mark since September 15 with 2,015 infections.

Sabah recorded a seven-day average of 916 daily Covid-19 cases yesterday, a 172 per cent increase from the previous week. 

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has attributed the high number of coronavirus infections in Sabah to the state’s policy of testing people without symptoms, contrary to the federal Ministry of Health’s (MOH) recommendation of reserving testing for people who show symptoms.

“There’s good and bad there. We don’t recommend asymptomatic testing anymore, it will show up more positives, but it’s good in a sense to know the positive rate in Sabah,” Khairy told a press conference yesterday.

Sabah’s current test positive rate is 10.9 per cent, the third highest in the country, exceeding the national 5.7 per cent rate. A positive rate of more than 5 per cent indicates the possibility of asymptomatic infections not being captured by testing or surveillance programmes. 

With health authorities now acknowledging Omicron as the dominant variant in Malaysia, infections are expected to surge rapidly due to the highly contagious strain, with MOH projecting a peak in the second half of next month.

MOH today reported 13,944 new Covid-19 cases nationwide. 

Omicron, however, is believed to be milder than the previously dominant Delta variant. Less than 1 per cent of daily new Covid-19 cases nationwide, including Sabah, are moderate to severe infections in Categories Three to Five.

The less severe nature of local Covid-19 infections occurs amid extremely high vaccine coverage in Malaysia, with nearly 80 per cent of the total population fully vaccinated.

Sabah State Local Government and Housing Minister Masidi Manjun told CodeBlue that dealing with the Omicron wave is “very challenging, but we are encouraged by the fact that over 99 per cent of daily cases are in the mild category.”

Officially, Sabah has the lowest Covid-19 vaccine coverage in Malaysia, with 61.4 per cent of its total population fully vaccinated against the virus. The national average is 78.8 per cent.

However, Masidi said official statistics of vaccine coverage do not reflect the actual number of people vaccinated in Sasbah.

“The base figure is based on estimates and the latest census shows the number of immigrants is very much less than originally estimated. And we have not even factored in fully vaccinated Sabahans who are working and residing in Peninsular Malaysia,” he said.

He pointed out that in his state constituency of Karanaan in Ranau, for example, only around 75 per cent are vaccinated, according to official statistics. However, a physical count in every village in Karanaan revealed that only 314 people were unvaccinated, the names of whom are known to health authorities.

“At this number, the vaccinated rate in my constituency is 98 per cent.”

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