Weekly Highlights

What’s the Ministry of Health smoking?

23rd of July 2021

Yesterday, I was stunned with I saw a Facebook post by the Ministry of Health (MoH) which proudly announced that 1.32pm[1] that the number of COVID-19 positive cases is on a slight declining trend since 15 July 2021.

“Kes positif menunjukkan sedikit penurunan sejak 15 Julai 2021 selepas mencatatkan peningkatan yang konsisten pada minggu sebelumnya.”

Indeed, if you had a cursory look at the data (or squint a little) as a layman might, the number of positive cases does look like it was trending slightly lower, as shown in Chart 1 above. The local neighbourhood coffee shop (had dining in been permitted) discussions might even call for a small celebration.

But the Ministry of Health is not any lay person, it is the principal institution of science and integrity which tens of millions of Malaysians rely on for to protect their health and well-being.  It is not supposed to provide Malaysians with a false sense of security with unscientific assertions.

One need only to look an additional layer beneath the above data to simply conclude that the real number of COVID-19 cases are not declining at all.  This is reflected in Chart 2 below.

From Chart 2, which juxtaposed the number of positive cases against the number of test samples, as well as the resultant positivity rate – it is clear to any high school student that the reason why there was a “slight decline” in the number of daily recorded COVID-19 cases is entirely because of fewer tests being carried out.

There was no decline in the positivity rate at all. On the contrary, the positivity rate showed a significant increase as the number of tests were reduced.  The reason behind the reduced number of tests is almost understandable, 19th July was reporting for 18th which was a Sunday, while 21st July was reporting for 20th July, which was Hari Raya Haji.

The ‘wrongness’ of the MoH Facebook assertion is laid bare with yesterday’s (22nd July) report of 13,034 positive cases from 128,279 tests carried out, giving a positivity rate of 10.16%.

The above MoH Facebook post which typifies some of its earlier posts and assertions puts to question the credibility and competency of its leadership, in particular, the Health Minister, Dr Adham Baba.  It is no wonder that MoH has failed to plan for contingencies and eventualities which have resulted in the massive overcrowding and under-capacity at public hospitals today. As a result, our health service front-liners have to work under severe stress and duress to meet these extreme challenges.

In this context, perhaps it is not surprising that the MoH reduced the number of tests carried out for 6 consecutive weeks after the MCO3.0 was imposed on 24th May 2021 despite high and rising positivity rate during those weeks.  Either the Minister believed that with reduced tests, the number of positive cases will indeed come down, or he is just so obtuse that he needs to be immediately replaced by anyone else who just cannot be any less competent.

Tony Pua

MP for Damansara

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