Malaysia Not Fully Safe from Covid

KUALA LUMPUR: The Covid-19 pandemic situation in the country is not yet over despite the decreasing number in daily infections and deaths, experts say.

They also say it was too early to tell if the situation was improving as hospital admissions in several states, including the Klang Valley, was still high.

Manipal University College Malaysia Community and Occupational Medicine Professor Dr G. Jayakumar said the increasing trend in hospitalisation rates in several states was a concern.

Additionally, he said the waning vaccine immunity as indicated by studies and the spread of the Delta variant could again contribute to a rise in infections.

“It is too early to make a definitive conclusion on the downward trend. Hospital admissions in the Klang Valley due to Covid-19 has increased about 35 per cent the last week. However, the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and ventilated cases have been showing a decrease.

“The next few weeks will be crucial to monitor the trend of admissions because of the opening up of activities.

“The possible waning of immunity after six months of immunisation is another matter to be looked into,” he told theĀ New Straits Times.

Malaysia registered 5,434 Covid-19 cases on Monday and 5,745 cases yesterday, below the 6,000 mark.

Professor Dr G. Jayakumar.
Professor Dr G. Jayakumar.

The last time the country recorded cases below 6,000 was on June 28, with 5,218 cases.

On Monday, the country had a seven-day average of 1,686 hospital admissions nationwide.

According to the Health Ministry’s CovidNow portal, Selangor, Putrajaya, Sarawak and Kelantan showed a notable increase in Covid-19 hospitalisation based on the seven-day average of daily admissions.

The Klang Valley registered an increase from 309 (seven-day average) on Oct 11 to 416 on Monday. Selangor had a seven-day average admission of 264 on Oct 11, and the figure rose to 371 on Monday. Putrajaya’s figure increased from 19 on Oct 11 to 21 on Monday.

In Sarawak, hospital admissions (seven-day average) spiked from 366 on Sunday to 457 on Monday, while in Kelantan, it increased from 134 on Oct 11 to 144 on Monday. Sarawak also showed an increase in ICU admissions (seven-day average) from 105 on Oct 6 to 115 on Monday.

The Klang Valley and Kelantan, meanwhile, had been seeing a drop in ICU admissions.

Of the 5,434 Covid-19 positive cases logged on Monday, the bulk was reported in Selangor (800 cases), followed by Johor (698), Sarawak (694), and Kelantan (643). Kuala Lumpur registered 223 cases while Putrajaya had 14.

As of Monday, 85.3 per cent of the Klang Valley population had been fully vaccinated. In Sarawak and Kelantan, 70.6 per cent and 53.2 per cent of the population were fully immunised.

Dr Jayakumar said the country could be cautiously optimistic over the declining trend in infections.

“History gives us an optimistic outlook on how deadly viruses, such as the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic that killed 50 million people worldwide, to recent epidemics like SARS, A/H1N1 influenza and MERS-CoV, which generally began with high infection or fatality rates, but become manageable over time.”

He added that the nation could expect a return to normalcy by December as the people learned to co-exist with the virus.

“It is the right direction to slowly open up the economy. The virus is probably here to stay.

“When there is an outbreak of cases, it has to be dealt with a localised approach, for instance by imposing the Enhanced Movement Control Order.

“Besides, the World Health Organisation advocates lockdown only for short durations to ease the healthcare system.

“Practising and sustaining basic public hygiene measures will be a major preventive measure to curtail Covid-19 and other respiratory illnesses.”

He added that workplaces could gradually open up, but enforcement agencies like the Health Ministry and the Occupational Safety and Health Department needed to step up their health education and enforcement activities.

“There are numerous unanswered questions with regard to Covid-19. Many scientists predict Covid-19 to become endemic. It is likely that enough people will gain immune protection from immunisation and from natural infection. It may mimic influenza, such that there will be fewer transmissions and much fewer Covid-19-related hospitalisations and death.”

Molecular virologist Dr Vinod Balasubramaniam of the Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences at Monash University Malaysia said while the drop in infections was encouraging, Malaysians could not afford to let their guard down.

He said the government and public should continue to be vigilant in monitoring Covid-19, especially in genomic surveillance, by identifying possible new mutations and variants with the reopening of international borders.

 Dr Vinod Balasubramaniam
Dr Vinod Balasubramaniam

He also said the country should expect a sporadic rise in cases with the reactivation of tourism, inter-state and international travel. However, he said the majority of infections were not expected to be severe, if the individuals were all vaccinated.

“We have every reason to be optimistic in our battle against Covid-19, with the reducing number in daily infections, usage of ICU beds and ventilators, and mortality rate. It’s proof that our vaccination drive is successful. Vaccines do work in protection against mortality and severe symptoms.

“The government is also administering booster doses to frontliners, the elderly and the immunocompromised.

“And the recent acquisition of Molnupiravir as part of our country’s antiviral portfolio against Covid-19 to be used synergistically with vaccinated individuals is a step in the right direction.

“This could lead to a return to normalcy by end-December provided the vaccination continues for all eligible children above 12 and all eligible adults. We have not won the battle until all eligible individuals are vaccinated.”


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