protective suit, face mask, face shield
Photo by 18427938 on Pixabay
By Louis Kang

AT first glance, Malaysia’s daily new Covid-19 infections at 12,541 cases on July 17 looked alarming. After over six weeks being holed up at home from the Movement Control Order 3.0, not only were the new cases not coming down, they had gone up – and on many days, setting record highs.

But a closer examination of the daily new infections reveal that there’s no cause for unnecessary panic. Of the new cases on that day, 98.5 per cent involved those with either no symptoms (classified as Category 1 by the Ministry of Health) or mild symptoms (Category 2). They comprise 6,504 of the former and 5,848 of the latter (source).

There were only 86 new patients (0.7 per cent) at Category 3, which means their lungs had been infected. Total new Category 4 patients were 49 (0.4 per cent) while Category 5 was 54 (0.4 per cent). Category 4 referred to Covid-19 patients requiring oxygen therapy while Category 5 were those critical patients needing ventilation support.

Put in another way, the overwhelming number of new infections on that day had little or no symptoms. This is not to trivialize a global pandemic that has killed over four million people worldwide and close to 7,000 in Malaysia. But if we get unnecessarily worked up over statistics without contextualising them, we may end up with the wrong strategy in containing this outbreak.

We need to look beyond the daily new cases, especially as our vaccination effort has been ramped up to almost half a million doses per day. Studies worldwide have shown that while those vaccinated may still get infected with Covid-19, they are likely to suffer mild or no symptoms.

In the United Kingdom, where over 87 per cent of its population had received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccines, the number of new positive cases remains high. On July 17, there were 54,674 new infections in the country, more than four times that of Malaysia’s 12,528 on the same day, despite having a population twice the size of ours.

The UK is going ahead to lift Covid-19 restrictions on July 19. The British have already accepted the fact that it’s not the daily new infections that mattered. It’s the number of patients needing critical care and deaths, which have fallen drastically.

As of July 18, some nine million or 40 per cent of the Malaysian population have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 4.4 million (18.9 per cent) have been fully vaccinated. We are on track to achieving herd immunity by year-end, if not earlier.

With that in mind, the Health Ministry should continue with its daily breakdown report on the various categories of Covid-19 infections. This will go some way in allaying unnecessary fears and help contextualise the government’s milestones in our war against Covid-19.

Ara Damansara

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