KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 8 — A group of ex-ministers in a joint statement called on Putrajaya to invest in mass testing as soon as possible, as the human and economic cost otherwise could potentially far outweigh the cost of the testing itself. 

They said that the government must heed the call of medical experts to embark on a mass testing exercise, starting with screening all high-risk areas such as foreign worker dormitories, prisons and the communities living near them. 

“Indeed, as we do more testing, the number of positive cases will increase temporarily. But this is no time to hide our head in the sand. We must face it head on, find all the positive cases in the community then isolate them,” the group said in its statement. 

It added that according to a parliamentary reply, government facilities can perform close to 19,489 PCR tests per day while private sectors can perform up to 59,485 tests per day — which brings the national testing capacity to close to 80,000 tests a day. 

“But if we dispute over the exorbitant cost of doing the screening, please resort to the inexpensive and faster turnaround time RTK Antigen test, which arguably is more appropriate for the purpose of mass screening,” it added. 

The group also said that it believes there is a need for a complete overhaul of the MySejahtera application and to leverage on big data analytics using data collected through the application and other data available in their systems. 

“It was reported that MySejahtera has only directly detected 4 per cent of total reported Covid-19 cases in Malaysia, indicating that the government may still rely on manual contact tracing, for example asking positive patients who their close contacts are and testing accordingly,” they said. 

It also urged the government to develop a more sophisticated way of tracing positive cases by using public data that can be mined, such as social media tags or posts with meta-data. 

“We must keep innovating and not sit complacently on our early successes and laurels. We’ve overtaken China, the global epicentre. 

“We must act preemptively and proactively to safeguard and defend our green zones and mitigate further cases and eventually deaths through preventing outbreaks on ignition sites in factories, workplaces and construction site settings, especially in urbanised Selangor, Penang and Johor,” they said.

The joint statement was released by former minister and deputy minister of Health, Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad and Dr Lee Boon Chye, as well as former minister and deputy minister of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change, Yeo Bee Yin and Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis.

Yesterday, Malaysia reported a new record of 3,027 Covid-19 daily infections. The country has so far recorded 128,465 infections, with 25,742 cases still active and 521 deaths.