Weekly Highlights

PN, stop the trend of low testing!

If the Federal Government continues at the current rate of low testing nationwide during this lockdown period, they are only setting us up for a surge in new Covid-19 cases once the movement control order is eventually eased, defeating the purpose of the recently announced National Recovery Plan(NRP).

While Malaysia only recorded 4611 absolute Covid-19 cases yesterday, which is near one of the threshold set for Phase 2, but in reality it is down mainly to the lack of testing nationwide with only 58,384 test being done pushing the positive rate up to 7.9%.

This is far from the targeted 150,000 daily testing rate mentioned by the Health Director General(DG) as early as January 2021.

Fact of the matter, the average positive rate for the past week from 15th June- 21st June 2021 is at a high rate of 7.1% which means our daily figures are under-reported and the situation is much more severe than it is reported

This is of course over the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended rate of below 5%.

We cannot continue to keep our heads in the sand and an over emphasis on absolute total cases will not give the real picture of the disease burden on the ground unless it is adjusted to the daily numbers of testing and also positive rate.

This is even more concerning with the rise of sporadic cases detected in our community and the possibility of outbreaks of different variants that may be more infectious and possibly deadly.

According to DG Noor Hisham, Malaysia recorded a total of 52,040 new Covid-19 cases during the week ending 5th June 2021 with 84.3% reported as sporadic cases

There is no other way to detect these sporadic cases more effectively than to change the current policy of testing from just testing symptomatic and close contacts, to mass testing in every district, zones and then repeating it again in zones with high prevalence of positive cases.

There is no replacement for speedy find, test, trace, isolate and support efforts when it comes to effective and efficient Covid-19 pandemic management.

This is being practiced in countries that have successfully mitigated the pandemic including the UK that that have been doing up to 1 million test daily for their 68 million population.

That translates to an average positive rate of only 0.8%. The UK which is twice our population is somehow doing 12.5x our testing capacity.

In order to increase our testing capacity, we need all hands on deck. The federal government must work with all sectors and see the states and private sector as allies in their efforts to increase testing on a national level. Testing kits should be made affordable and easily accessible by the public even in private sector. The current decision by the government to cap the price of the testing kit itself only is insufficient as it does not include services rendered by the private sector which is not controlled.

Instead the government should take the extra step of engaging with the private sector, understand the total cost involved and then set a ceiling price of total cost of the kit itself and services rendered to make sure it is affordable to all to encourage more testing in the community.

So, with that, instead of focusing on reducing the nationwide cases or even absolute total numbers, the government can now follow WHO recommendations to have a Positive Rate of 5% and below for 2 weeks before consider re-opening of the economy.

They then can do targeted opening based on local and district data rather than a blanket lockdown ban which has very significant economic cost.

Based on current statistics only Perak, Sabah, Penang, Perlis, Terengganu and Pahang are the only state who’ve manage to maintain at least 2 weeks straight below 5. With those statistics, on top of other health parameters including ICU capacity, infective rate, vaccination rate and proper exit strategy SOPs, they can make the necessary decisions based on science and data.

The determination of reopening the economy must be science-based and realistic in its target.

That is why I have constantly urged the government not to waste this period of lockdown. Testing on top of vaccination must be the number one priority in the next weeks, at all cost, not reducing them to give us a false sense of security.

The government must learn from past lesson where they had to grapple with a resurgence of COVID-19 cases twice after reopening the economy and lifting restrictions too soon and not based on good science.

Kelvin Yii Lee Wuen
MP Bandar Kuching

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