2021-01-06 15:23:00  2406181

Our chaotic virus warfare


Sin Chew Daily

Health DG Noor Hisham Abdullah's series of announcements seems to declare to the world that Malaysia's coronavirus outbreak is almost out of control. Our modular hospital are bursting at the seams, asymptomatic patients are encouraged to go on home quarantine, early discharge of infected patients without screening, serious understaffing at Serdang makeshift hospital, poor environment at Penang modular hospital, and vaccine rollout earliest in March...and a whole lot more.

We have just breached the 120.000-mark and our health institutions are already finding it hard to tackle. Given the daily four-digit increase in new infection numbers and the growingly lax SOPs at this moment, hitting 200k is not impossible before mid-February. And in the event the B.1.1.7 variant from UK happens to land on our shores, the country's health system could collapse in no time.

We now have more than 86.5 million confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide, with over 18 countries reporting more than a million cases each.

When the infection number has come to a tipping point, the virus will irreversibly spread wildly, as observed in the US, India, Brazil, Russia, France, UK and the like.

Whenever a new high is recorded, the trend will go continually upward after staying put for several days. In the event it trends down momentarily, there is no cause for celebration, as the next wave of infections and possibly new strains are waiting to strike.

Looking back at the country's year-long war against the virus, the MCO first implemented on March 18 last year indeed produced some desirable results. Perhaps we can explain that with the fact we didn't have too many cases back then and the spread was therefore limited, thus giving us the misperception things were under control.

Because of the terrible impact of the MCO, we later came up with much milder versions of CMCO, RMCO and community-specific EMCO while lifting travel bans across state and district borders, as an expedient solution to balance between economy and fighting the virus.

If members of the public, local businesses and their employees, in particular migrant workers, were more self-disciplined in SOP compliance while the restrictions were loosened, we should have been able to slow down the spread of the virus and keep it largely manageable, at least until vaccines are made available here.

Unfortunately we missed that "transition period" while waiting for the vaccines, allowing the virus to spread very rapidly since last September, so much so that we now find ourselves completely overwhelmed and helpless.

With only 120.k cases recorded so far, our health DG has already declared that our modular hospitals are bursting at the seams, and therefore has to encourage asymptomatic cases or cases with light symptoms to go on home quarantine. We have no idea how the authorities are going to define "light symptoms" and home quarantine SOPs, though.

Take Taiwan for example, infected patients are sent to hospitals for treatment in ambulances while uninfected close contacts are put on home quarantine and people living within the same house are told to move out or stay in designated hotels for quarantine. All the subjects will be tracked by health authorities twice a day.

We never do that here in Malaysia!

In Malaysia, infected individuals with light or no symptoms can still stay in the same house as their family members, which is extremely inadvisable as the entire household will eventually get infected. As if that is not enough, the family members will still have to step out of the house for daily grocery shopping, and that will take the virus to grocery stores, hypermarkets and elsewhere.

In view of this. Dr Noor Hisham must reverse this decision.

Noor Hisham's second argument is that if the level of virus infection decreases, the patient can be discharged without conducting tests after ten days in a hospital. Which is contrary to WHO requirements.

Noor Hisham should not have done things this recklessly. Apparently he has lost his direction!

As for the vaccine rollout, he said this would depend on the progress between vaccine manufacturers and the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA). He said so far there is only one vaccine that has been sent for NPRA registration.

As a matter of fact, during this crucial moment, he should have sought emergency approval from relevant government authorities instead of doing nothing.

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