Experts Call For Aggressive Measures To Fight Covid-19

KUALA LUMPUR: Epidemiologists have warned that failure to understand how the virus spreads would result in the meltdown of the country’s Covid-19-fighting infrastructure, and urge authorities to take more aggressive measures to manage the pandemic.

As cases continue to rise and numbers hitting almost 3,000 in Selangor yesterday, an expert suggested that the government lock down the state for the next two weeks.

Universiti Putra Malaysia epidemiologist and biostatistician Associate Professor Dr Malina Osman said aggressive measures were needed to curb the swift transmission in the state.

“In my opinion, it is highly recommended we have a real total lockdown in Selangor for the next two weeks, and this is to be implemented with mass vaccination of workers.

“Organisations and companies with more than 50 per cent of its staff vaccinated can be exempted,” she told the New Straits Times yesterday.


Associate Professor Dr Malina Osman
Associate Professor Dr Malina Osman

She said data for the past six months showed that screening and vaccinations had to be expedited in Selangor.

However, she added, mass screening without proper strategies to isolate patients, standard operating procedure (SOP) adherence, enforcement of regulations and vaccination would leave people at risk of repeated virus exposure and reinfection.

“In reality, no one will be living in a separate work setting without mingling with other social groups.

“Those working at factories have their own spouses, families, and close friends, who then have their own communities.”

Dr Malina said the latest information on new virus variants showed higher transmissibility.

She said even the relatively small fraction of clusters from workplaces could spread the virus to families and communities, and similarly from the community to those who work in factories.

“We are still in a crisis, as indicated by our healthcare system still overwhelmed with screening of possible new cases, treating active and critical patients.

“We have to work out the underlying cause of the persistent high number of new cases of Covid-19, particularly in Selangor.

“At the same time, states which showed better conditions (single- or double-digit cases) and a vaccination rate of at least 10 per cent should be allowed to move into the next phase,” she added.

Professor Dr Sazaly Abu Bakar, who heads Universiti Malaya’s Tropical Infectious Diseases Research and Education Centre, said Health Ministry data showed that 60 per cent of Covid-19 infections originated from the construction and manufacturing sectors, which led to the virus spreading to communities.

He said during the MCO, it was these industries that continued to operate, while malls, night markets and other small shops remained closed.

“We are beyond disaster. We are now paying a heftier price than before”. - Professor Dr Sazaly Abu Bakar, Tropical Infectious  Diseases Research and Education Centre head
“We are beyond disaster. We are now paying a heftier price than before”. – Professor Dr Sazaly Abu Bakar, Tropical Infectious Diseases Research and Education Centre head

“The problem that we face now is failure to recognise the typical virus transmission.

“It will start from the sectors currently in operation, and in this case they are the construction and manufacturing sectors.”

Dr Sazaly said workers from these sectors could spread the infection they got from the workplace to the community where they lived.

As an example, he said, a factory supervisor gets infected from work, returns home and infects other family members or housemates working in other factories or construction sites.

“This person’s family members or housemates then go to work, and start infecting others at the workplace.

“This is how the disease spreads from one workplace to the community, through the social network, and into a different workplace. We are beyond disaster. We are now paying a heftier price than before.

“As long as we fail to recognise this, we will never be able to contain the virus,” he said, adding that Malaysia was joining the likes of India, Indonesia and Bangladesh in its handling of the pandemic.

Dr Sazaly said the Covid-19 death rate in the country was on average three times higher compared with other developed countries, which indicated that the positivity rate was also three to four times higher than currently being reported.

“According to the number of daily Covid-19 cases, we are supposed to have at most 30 deaths a day. But our high number of deaths can only suggest that the actual positive cases in the community are a lot higher than what’s being reported.

“It’s also important to note that the Delta variant of the virus is highly transmissible, with patients showing high virus load. So just imagine (what the numbers would be like) if we lifted the MCO.”

He suggested that the government democratise diagnostics and make Covid-19 testing free and accessible for everyone, until vaccination rates are high enough.

The tests, he said, should be available at every private or government clinic, or even at pharmacies.

“Once someone tests positive, they should be given clear instructions on the next steps.”


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