‘R0 reduced from 2.2 to 1.5’

Relentless fight: Baling health district office personnel preparing to conduct Covid-19 screening on locals at Kampung Padang Che Mas. According to the Health Ministry, combating the third wave of Covid-19 proves to be more challenging. — Bernama

PETALING JAYA: Combating the third wave of Covid-19 is proving to be more challenging than the second wave, according to the Health Ministry.

This despite the country being more prepared in terms of equipment and public health policies in place.

However, since the start of the third wave, the rate of infectivity –known as R0 (pronounced R-naught) – levels have reduced from 2.2 to 1.5 within four weeks.

The R0 of a virus is a measure of its transmission, or number of new infections generated by each case.

An R0 rate of 1, for example, means that on average, each infected person will infect one other person they come in contact with.

Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah revealed that for the second wave, the starting R0 was at 3.5.

“We successfully reduced it then to 0.3. But the third wave is more challenging despite us being more ready from capacity and public health work,” he said in a press conference yesterday.

According to the ministry projections, the country could reach daily case number of up to 5,000 by Oct 31 if the R0 level had remained at 2.2.

“If we follow projections of a value of 1.5, it might reach 1,300 or 1,200 cases a day by Oct 31. We are worried about this but if we all work together, we can reduce this,” he added.

The best way to reduce the R0 was to adhere to the “stay at home” advisory, he said.

Dr Noor Hisham said the virus would not be able to spread if it did not infect another person within a week.

“What we have to do is reduce the R0 to less than one. Efforts must be increased and people should stay at home.

“To balance life and livelihood, the government has implemented the conditional movement control order in certain areas. This approach is aimed at flattening the curve even though it may take some time to do so,” he said.

On the spike in cases following the Sabah elections, Dr Noor Hisham said the increase could be linked to failure to adhere to the set SOP.

“Did the election contribute to the increase in cases? Maybe, because the SOP was not followed closely. If we look at New Zealand’s election, it was conducted without a rise in cases.

“Why? Because the SOP was followed. If we do so, we can break the chain of infection in our country,” he said.

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