Reactivate the Covid-19 National Task Force — Musa Mohd Nordin

JAN 9 —Just when we thought that Covid-19 is headed for endemicity, the emergence of Delta and Omicron variants sends a rude reminder that we are not out of the woods yet in this pandemic.

In the last week alone, the world is shaken with record-high numbers of new Covid-19 cases, mainly of the Omicron variant. Although the clinical severity of Omicron infection is less compared to earlier variants, the rapid transmission, exponential case numbers and effects on the unvaccinated persons or people with non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease are major cause of concern.

But are we ready to face this potential new wave?

Admittedly, the challenges are different this time.

Apart from ensuring that the healthcare infrastructure is ready to face the possible deluge of patients, the authorities also needs to manage pandemic fatigue amongst the lay public. With offices, malls, schools and places of worship opening up, the man on the street is hungry for life to return to normal.

This means that the minister needs to take charge and make hard decisions, some that may not be popular.

The recent call by the minister to halt umrah travel due to the high cases of Omicron cases among returning umrah pilgrims is one example of a decision that was not well received by the public.

Omicron has also taken a toll on health care providers (HCPs), with many falling sick. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Omicron has also taken a toll on health care providers (HCPs), with many falling sick. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

Similarly, we urge the minister to take a proactive stance now, and sound the clarion call to counter the onslaught of Omicron by reactivating the Covid-19 National Task Force (NTF).

Originally the Greater Klang Valley Special  Covid-19 Task Force (GKVSTF), the NTF is made up of an inclusive, coordinated multi-agency/sectorial team with varying expertise in pandemic management.

The GKVSTF had successfully plunged the Delta Curve when all earlier efforts including MCOs and Emergency Ordinances (EO) failed, causing critical case numbers in July 2021, resulting in total collapse of the healthcare services, and catastrophic number of deaths.

The Covid-19 National Task Force (NTF) which reports directly to the Minister of Health, has multi-sectoral engagements, with representations from government agencies, universities, the private sectors, expert advisory groups and NGOs.

As with the GKVSTF, the various clusters in the NTF will ensure that their national pandemic protocols are contemporary, and re-examine their strategic plans to be synchronised with the other clusters.

This is closely monitored by the Independent Compliance team to ensure the NTF directives are satisfied, harmonized, coordinated and recommends immediate solutions for any lapses or weaknesses.

The entire work flow from the pre-hospital, Health Centers, District Hospitals, PKRC, Government Hospital, Private Hospitals, ICU levels must be comprehensively addressed with the implementation of an end-to-end automated outbreak management system.

Omicron has also taken a toll on health care providers (HCPs), with many falling sick. It is important that our HCPs are all boosted with mRNA vaccines to ensure that we are not short-staffed when Omicron really hits us.

There is no need to reinvent the wheel. We have had a successful working model (GKVTF) and modus operandi in dealing with the Delta wave.

Fine tuning the NTF is all it takes now to face the Omicron threat, protect our healthcare services, prevent our HCP from burn out and minimise national morbidity and mortality.

We have learnt from the failures of managing the third wave. Let us not repeat the mistakes, and kick-off confidently with the reactivation of the NTF.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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