Health Ministry: Malaysia would’ve seen nearly 5,000 new Covid-19 cases daily without mitigation, likely peak now over 1,000 with current rate

A health worker inside a protective chamber collects swab samples to test for Covid-19 at the Sunway Medical Centre in Subang Jaya October 15, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
A health worker inside a protective chamber collects swab samples to test for Covid-19 at the Sunway Medical Centre in Subang Jaya October 15, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 18 — Malaysia would have seen an upward trend of nearly 5,000 Covid-19 new cases daily by month’s end had the infectivity rate, or R-naught (R0), was not lowered from 2.2 to 1.5 in recent weeks, the Ministry of Health said today.

In a special press briefing, Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said that public health efforts in the past two weeks have however successfully decreased the value from 2.2 recorded earlier this month to between 1.3 and 1.5 at present.

“We started with R0 of 2.2, and had we not taken public health actions then the case would have increased.

“Maybe over 1,000 cases, 2,000 cases, 3,000 cases up until October 31, maybe we would have gotten 5,000 cases,” he said.

Dr Noor Hisham had earlier shown the three possible scenarios of a projected trajectories of daily Covid-19 cases involving different values of R0 — 2.2, 1.5 and 0.3 — during the press conference.

R0 is a mathematical term that indicates how contagious and infectious a disease is.

Noting that the present third wave of infections was more devastating than the second wave of infections, Dr Noor Hisham said what was crucial now is to ensure infections within the community are reduced.

He said infections were still present within the community in the past two weeks but at a plateaued rate as compared to an R0 of 2.2.

He pointed out that Malaysia had initially recorded an R0 of 3.5 when the movement control order (MCO) was imposed nationwide on March 18.

However, Dr Noor Hisham said the value was successfully reduced to 0.3 following positive outcomes over governmental actions taken as well as strict compliance with the standard operating procedures among the public.

“Malaysia, however, began to record a high value of R0 at 1.7 on September 7 following the spike in cases reported in Kedah and Sabah at that time.

“The third wave in Malaysia is undeniably challenging even though we are more prepared in terms of capacity and public health measures.

“The R0 value at the start of the third wave on September 20 was 2.2, but in four weeks it has decreased to 1.5.

“Therefore, what we must do now is to further lower the R0 value to less than 1. This projected trajectory is important because it shows that we have still room to further control the current third wave situation,” he said.

Stressing the need to break the chain of infection, Dr Noor Hisham said Malaysians must help the country by staying at home as it was the most effective way to control the spread of Covid-19 in the community.

“All public health efforts in the field must continue and further intensified, movement control between borders must also be strengthened.

“For now, Malaysians must work together with the government to ensure the total severance of Covid-19 infection in the country.

“What is needed now, is to stay at home. That is the message that has been said since March, April and May,” he said.

He also said public healthcare facilities at present are still within its capacity to treat Covid-19 patients as the number of patients discharged was within the figures of newly reported cases.

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