Malaysia may experience a situation similar to other nations that saw an increase in Covid-19 cases when it begins treating the pandemic as an endemic by the end of next month, say experts and academicians. They have called for a roadmap and measures to encourage people to continue embracing the new norms and prevent Covid-19 from putting a strain on the healthcare system.
Dr Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said it was inevitable that cases would once again surge following the easing of restrictions and the reopening of economic sectors. "This has been experienced by other jurisdictions as they gradually opened up.
Dr Oh Ei Sun
"What is important is inculcating the right mindset in people and encouraging them not to let their guard down when complying with the standard operating procedures (SOP), especially with the prevalence of the Delta variant," he said.
Associate Professor Dr Malina Osman, a Universiti Putra Malaysia epidemiologist and biostatistician, said while the country was gearing towards opening more sectors, people should continue to be cautious to avoid another wave. "I am worried about it. People's hopes of the pandemic ending soon after the discovery of vaccines faded after a surge in some countries, including the United States, Israel and European countries, despite their high vaccination rate.
"It is now is happening in Singapore," she said when discussing lessons that can be learnt from Singapore, which has started entering the endemic phase.
Associate Professor Dr Malina Osman
It was reported that 82 per cent of the adult population in the city-state had been vaccinated, but the number of cases continued to rise. Singapore on Wednesday registered a daily record high of 1,457 cases, while the death toll stood at 68. This has compelled the Singapore government to monitor intensive care units to make sure its hospital system was not overwhelmed.
Dr Malina said Malaysia should have all the strategic and coordinated efforts to anticipate a similar situation. "Updated information on the situation in neighbouring countries should be highlighted and made public. I hope any loosening of restriction or SOP will be treated carefully. "This allows us to be mentally prepared for the possibility of a similar situation."
Apart from continuing efforts to adhere to the SOP and increase the vaccination rate, she said compulsory self Covid-19 screenings should be mandated for public or social gatherings for the next three months.
"This should be regulated for gatherings involving travel bubbles, interstate travelling, social gatherings involving large numbers, students going back to hostels or balik kampung, and those who work with high-risk groups. "These may include visiting those who are medically contraindicated from vaccination or with an unknown vaccine status." Dr Oh stressed the need for Malaysia to have a multi-pronged approach. "We have to start looking at the third booster shot as it has become increasingly obvious.
"For example, in the case of Sarawak, although most of the population has been fully vaccinated, it does not provide complete protection from the virus."
Oh said there should be a campaign to encourage people to zealously comply with the SOP, but not in an intrusive manner.
Malaysian Public Health Physicians Association president Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar called on the government to share with the public "the actual ground plan" when the country entered the endemic stage.
Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar
This, he said, would help prepare and guide stakeholders and people on their roles to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 when Malaysia entered the endemic phase.
The government, he said, should continue with comprehensive monitoring of emerging new variants as well as new clusters in the community. "In addition, the public health system must always be ready in the event of a re-emergence of outbreaks."
He said the government should continue accelerating the immunisation drive for those 12 years old and above as well as administering booster shots, with priority given to vulnerable groups.
By Adib Povera – New Straits Times https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2021/09/730245/brace-surge-endemic-phase
Date of Input: 28/09/2021 | Updated: 25/10/2021 | aslamiah
Universiti Putra Malaysia
43400 UPM Serdang
Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia