‘Covid-19 Pandemic Isn’t Over’: Experts Urge Continued Efforts

The top three recommendations from the global Delphi consensus study focus on whole-of-society action and maintaining, or in some cases returning, to a vaccine-plus approach.

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 7 – In a new consensus, over 300 experts from 112 countries, including Malaysia, have recommended specific actions to end the persistent Covid-19 global threat to public health.

The multinational Delphi consensus study – which convened a panel of 386 academic, health, non-governmental organisation, government, and other experts in Covid-19 response from 112 countries – made recommendations across six domains: communication; health systems; vaccination; prevention; treatment and care; and inequities.

“This consensus study advances a global vision of informed decision-making on how the world can end Covid-19 as a public health threat without a return to sweeping limitations on civil liberties, without risking the health and lives of vulnerable groups, and without exacerbating economic burdens,” concluded the study, published last Thursday in scientific journal Nature.

Three Malaysian experts – Prof Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman (Institute for Research, Development and Innovation at International Medical University), and Prof Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman and Prof Dr Sanjay Rampal (University of Malaya) – were among the co-authors of the global study. The University of Malaya has also endorsed the study.

Dr Adeeba said the Delphi study stressed that the Covid-19 pandemic isn’t over. 

“[The study also stresses] the importance of collaboration — whole-of-government, whole-of-society response; communicate clearly and improve trust; and address inequities, especially access to testing, treatment, care, and support,” Dr Adeeba told CodeBlue.

“Vaccine alone is not enough – continue personal protection, address ventilation in schools etc,” said the infectious disease expert, adding that the Delphi study recommends wearing face masks in crowded places indoors.

In Malaysia, Covid-19 cases have begun rising, hitting nearly 3,600 daily infections on a seven-day average last November 4, amid the 15th general election campaign that kicked off Saturday.

“Get a second booster dose, especially those at high risk of severe infection,” Dr Adeeba urged Malaysians.

“If attending crowded places, ceramahs etc, wear a mask, especially indoors. If symptomatic, test if able to and stay home if positive. Even if you’re negative, if you have symptoms, it’s best to not expose others.”

The top three recommendations from the Delphi study focused on whole-of-society action and maintaining, or in some cases returning, to a “vaccine-plus” approach.

First, researchers recommended a whole-of-society strategy for pandemic preparedness and response that includes multiple disciplines, sectors, and actors to avoid inefficiency and ineffectiveness of fragmented efforts.

Second, the Delphi study called for whole-of-government approaches, such as interministry coordination, to identify, review, and address resilience in health systems to make them more responsive to people’s needs.

Third, researchers urged countries to adopt a vaccine-plus approach that includes a combination of Covid-19 vaccination, other prevention measures, treatment, and financial incentives such as support measures. 

The Delphi study observed that coronavirus infection rates tended to increase when governments discontinued social measures, including non-pharmaceutical interventions, regardless of vaccination coverage. Many countries, including Malaysia, have dropped mask mandates.

“SARS-CoV-2 is still present among us — despite some governments moving on — requiring continued efforts and resources to save lives,” researchers warned.

“Vaccines are an effective tool against Covid-19 but will not alone end Covid-19 as a public health threat; multisectoral collaboration that centres on communities and fosters trust is needed; 

“Responsive health systems are crucial for responding to the Covid-19 pandemic and require coordinated government support; adverse forces challenge efforts to end the Covid-19 public health threat; and none of us is safe until everyone is safe.”

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