‘Low infectivity still far off’

PETALING JAYA: It will be weeks or even months before the Health Ministry’s target of an infectivity level of below 0.5 can be achieved, health experts opined.

The goal to reduce the infectivity rate to below 0.5 is possible with the proper public health measures, said Universiti Putra Malaysia medical epidemiologist Assoc Prof Dr Malina Osman.

“This can be done if all individuals comply with the strict rules and standard operating procedure (SOP),” she said, adding that this is a good target to be aiming for.

She said the time taken to achieve that target depends on the public.

“The higher level of SOP compliance, the better our chances. If all of us are able to commit and contribute to this effort in a dedicated manner, we can achieve the target within two to four weeks from now.

“We have no other choice but comply with the SOP for now,” she said.

Universiti Malaya virologist Prof Dr Sazaly Abu Bakar said it would be a “long way to go” before Malaysia sees its R value dip below 0.5.

“My guess is that it will take another four or even up to eight weeks before we can achieve the target.

“We are most likely going to see this situation last into the New Year, especially as the holidays are coming,” he said, as major festivals such as Deepavali and Christmas will likely lead to more people congregating.

“Theoretically, getting the R value below 0.5 is achievable, if everyone cooperates – the key word here being everyone.

“That means we also need to resolve our current major headache which is workplace infections, including factories and construction sites,” he said.

He said there must be stronger emphasis for firms hiring such workers to ensure proper physical distancing and that they are free of Covid-19.

“The message that needs to get across to employers is that they must protect their own businesses by making sure all their workers are free of Covid-19,” he said.

Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the ministry is targeting an infectivity rate of below 0.5 through public health intervention activities.

He earlier said the country’s R value stood at 2.2 at the beginning of the third wave, and that the conditional movement control order had brought the value down to 1.5.

In a recent tweet, he said that as of Nov 17, the daily estimated R value for Malaysia is at 1.06.

An indicator of how fast the virus is spreading, the R value shows the average number of people who contracted Covid-19 from an infectious person.

An Rt value – the effective reproduction number – of less than 1.0 is a good sign.

While R0, or R-naught, is the initial reproduction number of the virus at the beginning of the pandemic, Rt refers to the reproduction number at a particular point in time.

From Nov 13 to 17 consecutively, Malaysia recorded four-figure daily cases.

Yesterday, the country saw a downturn in the trend, with only 660 new cases recorded.

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