‘We’re on track to beat this’

A shot in the arm: Dr Adham showing the use of a low dead-volume syringe to administer the Covid-19 vaccine. — Bernama

PETALING JAYA: The Health Ministry’s efforts to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, including taking time to bring in the vaccines, are on course to show a positive outcome, says Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba.

Recalling that under the second movement control order, the number of cases had peaked at 5,738 at week four at the end of January, the Health Minister noted that at week seven now, the R0 has gone down to 0.9.

(The R0 – pronounced R-naught, an indicator of how contagious a disease is – was highest then, at 1.16.)

“The positive results will be obvious in July, ” he said in an interview with The Star at his office in Putrajaya.

While it took only two months to bring the cases down with the strict lockdown under the first MCO last year, MCO 2.0 would take a longer time to flatten the curve of infections, he said.

“With MCO 2.0, we had to open up the economy.

“Our analysis shows that the MCO may be lifted by July, ” he added.

Dr Adham said the number of daily new cases of Covid-19 may give the impression that the government is not managing the pandemic well, but the country’s recovery rate is at a commendable 87%.

He pointed out that after the Sabah election last September, more sporadic cases started appearing and the MCO alone under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342) was insufficient to mitigate the situation.

“Had we not imposed the Emergency, this might take longer to achieve as Act 342 could not have adequately supported the MCO, ” he said.

The Emergency, he said, empowered the ministry to appoint more enforcers to ensure people observe the SOP and give them more authority to get the latest data from the private sector.

“We were not able to compel those testing privately to report the negative results and that caused a delay (in data gathering).

“With the Emergency, we can do so and bring in the data to help in our Covid-19 fight.

“Elections, too, can be delayed to prevent another super wave, ” he added.

Assuming the hot seat of Health Minister during a global health crisis, Dr Adham said he had decided from early on that he had no time to be in front of the cameras.

“Act 342 was never used prior to this Covid-19 pandemic.

“When I came in, with the power of the Act, we concentrated on four things – border control, movement control, personal protective equipment and physical distancing.

“The media had to chase me (for information) and I admit that it had worked to the detriment of my relations with the media, ” said the minister who initially courted flak with his infamous remarks about drinking warm water to kill the virus.

Dr Adham also said that the National Security Council decided that Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah would focus on updating the public as he had the authority to reveal data.

“I have to attend many meetings and sometimes the international meetings can take place early in the morning, ” he said.

On the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme, Dr Adham said although there is an allocation of RM3bil for the procurement of vaccines, he is careful not to put public health at risk with untested vaccines.

“It was good that the NPRA (National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency) is independent in approving the vaccines, ” he said.

Under the Covid-19 Vaccine Global Access (Covax) plan, Pfizer has only agreed to supply 20% of the vaccines to Malaysia, Dr Adham revealed, adding that the government managed to secure 50% due to the country being a long-term client of Pfizer.

“We are going to cover 80% of the population. Those not vaccinated will be protected by continuing the SOP, ” he said, adding that the country would be able to attain herd immunity.

Dr Adham also noted that Health deputy director-general (research and technical support) Datuk Dr Hishamshah Mohd Ibrahim closely follows the development and the usage of vaccines in other countries.

“As much as we feel the urgency to save our nation, we have to ensure that the vaccines are safe to be used, ” he added.

He promised to continue to be cautious with newer vaccines such as Sinovac and Sino-pharm.

“With the vaccination programme underway now, if we keep to the SOP, this is definitely the beginning of the end of the pandemic, ” he concluded.

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