Endemic or not, keep practising measures against Covid-19, urge experts

There’s a worry that the newer Omicron subvariants are now able to evade vaccine-induced antibodies. – SAMUEL ONG/ The Star.

AFTER almost three years since Covid-19 came into our lives, there is still a question mark about when Malaysia can be said to be in the endemic stage with the coronavirus.

Some experts say Malaysia has already reached that stage, while others believe the decision rests with the authorities.

Malaysian Medical Association president Dr Muruga Raj Rajathurai says he does not expect the government to announce endemicity any time soon.

“But human behaviour would be a key factor in determining our status.

“People are becoming careless these days.

“We strongly recommend people take boosters and continue to wear masks in crowded locations or if they are symptomatic,” he says.

Universiti Putra Malaysia epidemiologist Assoc Prof Dr Malina Osman says she is inclined to believe that the situation now is already endemic.

“However, certain protocols at the international level should be followed to avoid possible confusion,” she adds.

Dr Malina explains that an endemic state with Covid-19 can be announced once the data shows a similar pattern for more than six months.

“With the availability of the advanced vaccines and better highlighting of new strains, the current pattern indicates we are in a safer situation,” she says.

However, Universiti Malaya epidemiologist Prof Datuk Dr Awang Bulgiba Awang Mahmud says it is anyone’s guess on when an endemic state is reached.

“This would depend on what level would be accepted as a constant level of disease.

“This will need decisions from Malaysia and international health authorities.

“An endemic state can exist with intermittent outbreaks, which may be mitigated by effective treatments, vaccine boosters and targeted measures, with the economy being kept open with minimal disruption,” he says.

Dr Awang Bulgiba points out that there’s a worry that the newer Omicron subvariants are now able to evade vaccine-induced antibodies.

“But this is not necessarily a big problem as long as the Omicron subvariants do not cause more severe infection,” he says.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry says it will continue to work closely with the World Health Organisation in monitoring the number of deaths caused by Covid-19.

“The ministry has also noted that the fluctuations in mortality patterns seen since the start of the pandemic in 2020 has begun to stabilise.

“Mortality figures are returning to ‘normal’ or expected rates as we transition into the endemic phase of this pandemic,” says the ministry’s Institute for Public Health.

The institute is one of the research bodies under the National Institutes of Health.

“The ministry has been faced with a huge burden during the Covid-19 pandemic, and we continue to closely manage the situation.

“Malaysia has managed the pandemic well, and our healthcare system is based on a strong foundation and principles.

“We will continue carrying out programmes to not only manage the Covid-19 pandemic but also educate the public on healthy practices which will ultimately lead to longer and healthier lives for people,” it says.

The ministry also advises everyone to continue being vigilant and practise prevention measures against Covid-19 infection.

“Furthermore, we would like to reiterate the need for a healthy lifestyle, and for those with noncommunicable diseases to manage their conditions well.

“This will not only increase their life expectancy and reduce their risk of mortality but also lead to better quality of life,” it adds.

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