Covid-19 R0 climbs even as Health D-G warns of need to suppress infection rate

Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah disclosed that the r0 had hit 2.34 on Wednesday after the three-digit surge in new cases before that, before abating to 1.78 yesterday. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah disclosed that the r0 had hit 2.34 on Wednesday after the three-digit surge in new cases before that, before abating to 1.78 yesterday. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 11 — The rate of new Covid-19 cases has accelerated with today’s numbers, just a day after Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah warned that a fresh wave could emerge unless this was brought down.

While the Health Ministry has not disclosed the exact basic reproduction rate — expressed as r-nought (r0) — of the coronavirus now, the 182 cases recorded in the previous 24 hours will have pushed this back above 2.0.

Yesterday, Dr Noor Hisham disclosed that the r0 had hit 2.34 on Wednesday after the three-digit surge in new cases before that, before abating to 1.78 yesterday.

The Health D-G warned that it was imperative to suppress the r0 to below 1.60 that was considered the critical level in order to avoid a fresh wave of Covid-19 infections hitting Malaysia.

“However, if it remains at 1.60 for two weeks or more, it is possible the number of infections will increase drastically,” he said yesterday.

The r0 is used in the analysis of infectious diseases to predict the average number of subsequent infections each new case could cause.

Using an r0 of 2.0 for example, each new infection could result in an average of another two more patients subsequently.

Consequently, the 182 cases reported today could result in 364 more cases that could then propagate at the r0 then, or exponential growth.

Any r0 above 1 means the disease must continue to grow, at a faster or slower rate depending on the r0.

For Covid-19 to decline and be eradicated in Malaysia, the r0 must be below 1.0.

The country had appeared to have weathered the Covid-19 wave after months of various movement control orders (MCO), but the Health Ministry was forced to impose an enhanced MCO in the Kota Setar district in Kedah yesterday after cases surged there.

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