Dr Noor Hisham fears fresh Covid-19 wave in Malaysia unless infection rate suppressed

Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the rate of new Covid-19 infections was still at a worrying level. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the rate of new Covid-19 infections was still at a worrying level. — Picture by Choo Choy May

PUTRAJAYA, Sep 10 — The rate of new Covid-19 infections was still at a worrying level, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah warned today.

He said a sustained basic reproduction rate — r-nought (R0) — of 1.60 or more could result in a fresh wave of infections in the country that had appeared close to containing the disease.

The R0 must be below 1 in order for case numbers to subside.

“Yesterday, it was at 2.34 but today it has gone down to 1.78. However, if it remains at 1.6 for two weeks or more, it is possible the number of infections will increase drastically,” he said during his bi-weekly press conference.

He likened the situation to a burning ember, but said the Health Ministry still has matters under control for now.

However, he reiterated the need for greater caution and vigilance, especially among health workers.

“Hence it is important for front-liners and the public to take the standard operating procedures seriously. Should the infection spread, it will become much more difficult to control.

“Should the situation arise in which we are facing 1,000 or more infection cases a day, it will be difficult if not impossible for the ministry to conduct contact tracing and the like, as the surge in cases will put a heavy strain on our resources,” Dr Noor Hisham said.

Similarly, the ministry is also following up with Covid-19 patients to check on their antibody levels and to determine if they are experiencing any long-term effects or complications after recovering from their infections.

“We are not discounting the possibility of such complications, which so far has not been detected. One example is pulmonary fibrosis.

“This leaves scarring in the lungs and other parts of the body, which affects the breathing levels,” he said.

The director-general also cited blood clotting as another potential complication, which could lead to heart-related aliments or stroke.

“The retina artery being affected by clotting is also a possibility as it disrupts the vision. So far there have been no cases reported in Malaysia, but we are aware of it occurring abroad.

“The ministry is also looking into antibody response in the patients’ body, as a recent three-month study has indicated some may have only 20 per cent of antibodies in them,” he said.

This is especially important as Dr Noor Hisham said reinfection can occur if the antibody levels are not above 80 per cent.

Today saw 45 new Covid-19 cases reported, and 24 recoveries. This brings the total number of cases in Malaysia to 9,628 with 333 currently active.

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