PETALING JAYA, June 10 (Sin Chew Daily) – Public health experts say the first phase of nationwide lockdown should be extended by at least another 14 days because two weeks is not enough to completely stop the COVID-19 infection as many essential economic sectors are allowed to operate.
They say the numbers of active cases, positivity rates, ICU cases and R0 values are all still very high while new workplace clusters have emerged.
UPM public health expert (epidemiology and biostatistics) Associate Professor Dr Malina Osman told Sin Chew Daily the number of active cases are still very high at this moment at more than 80,000 cases while there are more than 900 cases being treated at ICUs.
"Our healthcare system may collapse any time and this may further raise the incidence of complications and mortality."
She feels that the current nationwide lockdown is not thorough enough, as many people are allowed to go back to their workplaces and be exposed to infection risks.
International Medical University (IMU) Pro Vice Chancellor of Research Prof Datuk Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman said 14 days will not be sufficient to break the infection chain.
"If we take 14 days as the incubation period, then 14 days will not be enough to totally break the infection chain. I suggest at least double the incubation period, or extension by another two weeks."
Lokman, who was also the former deputy director-general of health, said extending the lockdown by two weeks will significantly reduce the risk of infection.
He cited five reasons why the nationwide lockdown must be extended:
1. Very high daily new infection numbers that cannot be brought down to three digits over the next four days.
2. The numbers of new deaths, ICU cases and patients needing intubation are still very high.
3. While there are fewer new cases reported over the week from May 30 to June 5, the number of tests conducted each day were also lower.
4. Positivity rate is still high, above the 5% WHO threshold.
5. Most of the cases are sporadic, meaning widespread community infections.
UKM's health economics, hospital and health management Professor Sharifa Ezat Wan Puteh, meanwhile, also agreed with Dr Lokman's reasons to extend the nationwide lockdown.
She said, "Our vaccination rate is still very low, just above 4%. We need to inoculate 80% of our population to achieve the herd immunity goal. There is still a long way to go."