Health Ministry reviewing Covid-19 data modelling to see if MCO should be extended

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah speaks during a press conference on Covid-19 in Putrajaya April 9, 2020. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah speaks during a press conference on Covid-19 in Putrajaya April 9, 2020. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, April 9 — The Health Ministry will review its data models today to see if Malaysia could still experience the exponential coronavirus disease (Covid-19) growth previously predicted.

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the findings will guide the decision on whether the movement control order (MCO) must be extended for a second time or if any other areas require stricter lockdowns.

Dr Noor Hisham said the ministry has invited the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER), statisticians and epidemiologist to the review this evening.

“I will have a meeting later to look back at past cases and statistics we have on hand to determine whether our case modelling currently in use could provide us a glance of the situation in the next one or two weeks.

“We will then advise the prime minister and the Cabinet on the necessary actions to be taken,” he said in his daily Covid-19 press briefing.

The MIER previously projected that Malaysia’s Covid-19 cases would peak in the middle of this month, which JPMorgan’s Asia-Pacific Equity Research group echoed in a recent report.

Dr Noor Hisham said the ministry now has more granular data that allowed for precise modelling, which it would use to decide if any more areas must come under the enhanced MCO and if others could be lifted.

He explained that the ministry previously depended on cumulative case numbers, which was less informative, as this would eventually turn all localities into red zones.

The Health D-G said investigators could now identify Covid-19 hotspots precisely, which allowed it to put even individual buildings such as Selangor Mansion and Menara City One under the EMCO.

According to the Health Ministry’s designation of hotspots, green zones are those with zero Covid-19 cases, orange zones are those where between 20 and 40 Covid-19 cases have been recorded, while those known as red zones are where more than 40 cases have been reported.

“So now we need to identify cases not just on the state level, but district and sub-district level in order to obtain a more accurate picture of the infection zone whether its green, orange or red in the next two weeks. We will see.

“What is important now is to zoom in through a focused approach in the respective district or sub-district and if possible, a village,” he said.

By doing so, Dr Noor Hisham said the ministry would now be able to focus its limited resources to canvass those living within the infected area as part of its targeted action measures.

“If you look at the graph, our fight is not over, and we have neither won nor lost yet. What needs to be done now is strengthen our public healthcare and hospital services for Covid-19 patients.

“Looking at our performance so far, with today one of the lowest (recorded Covid-19 positive cases), this is something we can look into how we can enhance our facilities, human resources and make sure the next two weeks we try to maximise this window of opportunity.

“If we can do it right, we can avert the exponential surge as seen in other countries,” he said.

Earlier today, he also disclosed that there were 109 new Covid-19 infections as of noon, bringing the national total to 4,228 cases.

He also said two more Covid-19 patients have died, raising the national death toll to 67.

 

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