Malaysia on the brink of 4th wave infection

by HARIZAH KAMEL / pic by ARIF KARTONO

DOCTORS warn that Malaysia is on the brink of a fourth wave of Covid-19 infection as the total number of active cases shot to 16,300 yesterday.

According to data from the Ministry of Health (MoH), there were 1,767 new daily cases reported versus 1,290 recoveries, and 12 new deaths were also recorded yesterday.

Malaysian Public Health Physicians’ Association president Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar told The Malaysian Reserve that the real picture of what is to be expected from the fourth wave could be seen if the MoH reveals community surveillance statistics.

“Whatever they call it, cases are still there in the community. It has not subsided since early this year and will be around until months and probably years ahead. The number of cases reported will depend on the country’s policy and where the testing is being done,” Dr Zainal Ariffin said.

In terms of preparation, he said frontline healthcare workers are ready and able to handle the fourth wave of Covid-19 should it happen.

According to Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, data from the MoH over the past two weeks show that the virus outbreaks across the country are “unstable”.

The government’s decision in allowing bazaars and tarawih prayers for Ramadhan with stringent standard operating procedures (SOPs) has received mixed reactions from the public and health advocates alike.

Osel Group chief clinical and innovative scientist Dr Kris See said the next wave is more concerning as it might involve the variants of the virus.

“What is worrisome is that this coming wave might involve the mutant strains of the Covid-19 virus. Also, the nation’s infection rate or R-naught count continues to climb past 1.0.

“With schools and universities just reopened, we are witnessing many clusters from education institutions and workplaces,” he said.

He pointed that previously, infected cases in the construction sector had been low due to the stringent policies imposed by the authorities.

Dr See believes the public needs to continue observing the SOPs and practising physical distancing, as well as to be encouraged to sign up for vaccination.

“Phase 1 of vaccination is barely complete and we still hear many cases of frontliners not being vaccinated yet.

“Only through achieving herd immunity we would have a fighting chance of ending this predicament. I suspect we must now start to look at Covid-19 as endemic rather than as pandemic,” he said.

A statement by the World Health Organisation (WHO) representative office to Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore warns that the pandemic is far from over and we must not throw caution to the wind and put ourselves and others at risk.

“In this era of social innovation and new technologies, it is easier than ever for us to join together even when we are apart, and we should take a full advantage of this during the upcoming holidays,” said WHO representative to Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore Dr Lo Ying-Ru.

To help people celebrate religious observances safely, WHO has published advice for the public, complemented by tip sheets for faith leaders, on how to maintain religious practices during Covid-19; guidance on religious events that involve mass gatherings; and a series of posters and social media tiles related to safe practices during Ramadhan, Wesak and other major religious events.

WHO also urged people to get vaccinated based on their country vaccination schedule even during the holidays.

“It is important to note that for those celebrating Ramadhan, the Covid-19 vaccines and ingredients are in keeping with previous religious edicts and vaccination does not invalidate the practice of daily fasting.

“It’s very encouraging to see vaccines against Covid-19 starting to reach high-priority groups, but until vaccines reach everyone, we must all continue with protective behaviours when travelling, worshiping, celebrating or going about our daily life,” it said.

Furthermore, Dr Lo encouraged people to continue listening to their health authorities and adhere to local guidance as individual and community behaviours are still the most powerful weapon against the pandemic.