MoH developing testing strategy to determine phase transition

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THE Health Ministry (MoH) is developing a national testing strategy to determine which areas can transition into the mitigation phase or remain in the late containment stage as there are currently different Covid-19 testing policies.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar said there is also a need to empower state health departments to determine the phases based on the trend of transmission by considering current assets.

“Why should we do asymptomatic testing if the assets are insufficient. We have to move to mitigation.

“But I understand Gopeng’s concern because the issue leads to differing positivity rates, which is why we have to be clear on the testing strategy,” he said during his wind-up speech at the Dewan Rakyat yesterday as a response to Gopeng MP Dr Lee Boon Chye’s query.

Khairy also noted that MoH has problems in identifying the country’s positive rates due to the uncertain number of individuals who got infected.

He said the ministry cannot identify the actual number of those that conduct self-tests as only individuals who tested positive for the virus would report themselves while many do not report negative results.

“We do not know the true denominator because we do not know how many people have conducted self-tests.

“I welcome the proposal from Bandar Kuching MP who suggested for us to provide a rebate to those who report negative results from their self-tests,” he said in a response to Bandar Kuching MP Kelvin Yii’s suggestion.

On the self-test kits, the government is mulling plans to further reduce the ceiling price as it is now considered a necessity in every household.

Khairy said the kits will also be sold at other premises beyond community pharmacies for better access to the public.

“I had a discussion with the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs minister to reduce the selling price of these kits in the future and expand its sales to other premises such as convenience stores, supermarkets and other suitable locations.

“This is because the kits are now deemed as a necessity in the new normal which will support the country’s recovery process as more economic sectors and social activities reopen,” he said.

The minister also addressed concerns on the number of brought-in-dead (BID) cases which have been high as of late.

He said it takes up to six weeks to determine the cause of death for cases that do not take place in the hospital, which leads to a backlog of BID.

This does not only happen in Malaysia but also in other countries like India, the US and the UK, he said.

“In Malaysia, the delay in death reporting happens nationwide but it is obvious in the Klang Valley since the area saw a significant increase of Covid-19 infections from end-July until mid-August.

“We are taking necessary steps to ensure the data is updated as soon as possible and we have set the timeline for all health facilities to report death cases within 48 hours,” he said.

Khairy added that interstate travel on its own does not lead to a surge in infections but instead it is caused by the gathering of people in an area.

“On the interstate travel upon reaching 90% of vaccinated adult population, lifting of borders and mobility are not so much of an issue. It is the congregation that causes the spread of the virus,” he added.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the government will allow interstate travel after 90% of the country’s adult population have been fully vaccinated based on data and analysis by the MoH.