The government cannot afford to take the issues lightly, the MMA president noted. (Photo by Shahrin Yahya)

KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 6): Improvements are urgently needed in the Ministry of Health’s (MoH) handling of Covid-19 patients in Categories 1 and 2 — meaning those with mild symptoms — as well as their close contacts to eliminate confusion and prevent possible flouting of the home quarantine standard operating procedures (SOPs) which can lead to an increase in community transmissions, according to the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA).

MMA president Professor Datuk Dr. Subramaniam Muniandy once again urged the MoH to go back to its earlier policy of testing all close contacts as the ministry’s current policy is to only test symptomatic close contacts.

“In its (the MoH’s) preventive measures, only isolating them will not be sufficient. The health status of all close contacts should be established early or there can be risk of infections spreading among family members in the household and into the community if they breach the quarantine. Screening close contacts will also improve management of early symptoms of Covid-19.

Furthermore, he said more awareness and clarity are also needed of the SOPs for home quarantine as many are still unclear, adding that Covid-19 cases are at an all-time high now.

Therefore, the government cannot afford to take these issues lightly, the MMA president noted.

“Efforts must be increased to educate the public on the home quarantine SOPs and the MoH’s Covid-19 Assessment Centres (CACs) by frequently publishing them on all available media, including outdoor media, especially in areas with high populations, in simple Malay, English, Mandarin, and Tamil to ensure it is understood by all Malaysians.

“There are a total of 213 CACs nationwide to conduct assessments of Covid-19 patients undergoing treatment at their respective homes,” said Subramaniam.

Moreover, he said it must also be assumed that not every citizen follows daily news updates of Covid-19, thus a more strategic approach and appropriate selection of media to communicate these messages is needed.

“The Ministry of Communications and Multimedia should increase its efforts to ensure the MoH’s messages on the CACs and home quarantine SOPs are well communicated at every level,” said Subramaniam.

He cited a number of media reports about Covid-19 patients who either waited for days to be contacted by the District Health Offices (PKD) or had difficulty contacting them.

“Although the SOPs for home quarantine can be accessed via the MySejahtera app and via the MoH’s official website, some of the confirmed positive cases were not aware and needed to speak to someone from the MoH.

“We should expect that those who have just been diagnosed with Covid-19 might be overcome with anxiety, and will try desperately to contact the department in charge for assistance and guidance on the next steps to be taken. It must also be assumed that there will be elderly citizens who would use the phone to call, therefore every call should be treated with urgency,” he added.

He also called upon the government to urgently address home quarantine issues and make necessary improvements as not all individuals would follow quarantine guidelines strictly — or risk higher Covid-19 cases in the near future.

As of yesterday, Malaysia’s total Covid-19 cases climbed further to 234,874, with an additional 3,391 new cases reported. Meanwhile, the Covid-19 death toll rose to 845 after reporting 19 new fatalities.