Prepare For Covid-19 Surge As Malaysia Reopens: Experts

An endemic Covid-19 phase is not only about living with the coronavirus, but preparing a strong coping mechanism to accommodate the effects of the disease when it starts to spread widely once the people return to normalcy.

The public health care system must be prepared for a resurgence of Covid-19 cases with the resumption of interstate travel, experts said.

Azrul Mohd Khalib, head of the Galen Centre for Health & Social Policy, said that the reopening of state borders will surely result in another spike of coronavirus infections, especially among younger people who are yet to be vaccinated fully.

“Now that there’s going to be this interstate travel, there’s going to be a reduction of all these restrictions. There could be a massive surge in the number of cases that are going to be reported,” Azrul said in a webinar titled “Covid-19: Achieving Herd Immunity and the Way Forward”, organised by Penang Institute on October 7.

“It’s not so much the fact that people are getting infected or breakthrough cases.”

Azrul emphasised that the public health care system, including health care resources, should be ready to accommodate a future surge of Covid-19 cases as the country’s borders reopen.

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob allowed the country to reopen state borders starting from October 11, after 90 per cent of the adult population were fully vaccinated. Fully vaccinated adults are permitted to travel across the country without restrictions, as well as adolescents and children irrespective of their vaccination status.

Ismail Sabri also indicated that state borders will not be closed even if there is a surge in coronavirus infections. Daily Covid-19 cases fell from a peak of 24,599 infections on August 26 to 7,276 yesterday. The national positive rate was 4.65 per cent; the World Health Organization recommends a maximum 5 per cent positive rate for at least two weeks before reopening.

“There could be more people who are going to be hospitalised, falling seriously ill and dying as a result of it and that’s going to be a price to be paid. It will happen. This is the thing,” said Azul.

“This announcement, that’s going to be coming in the next couple of days, we thought there will be a resurgence of cases. We saw that in Langkawi just recently with this bubble that they created.”

Senior consultant paediatrician Dr Amar-Singh HSS said that Malaysia should not compare its situation with other countries like the the United Kingdom and the United States that have allowed large social gatherings. Health care systems of Asian countries, he said, are far different from European countries and the US.

“You can’t compare the UK health system to Malaysia. In the UK for months now, almost a year, everybody has had access to two Covid-19 tests a week. We can’t, we have no access like that,” Dr Amar mentioned in the same forum with Azrul.

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