Covid-19: Medical experts call on govt to implement a more targeted MCO to prevent fourth wave of infections

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 25 Apr 2021

PETALING JAYA: The government has been urged to implement a more targeted movement control order (MCO) with mass targeted testing to prevent a fourth wave of Covid-19 infections.

The Health and Sciences Covid-19 Advisory Group of Experts (EAG) said the government should prioritise mitigating the spread of the virus as it was no longer realistic to try and get infection rates down to zero,

It said all resources must be focused on enhancing the implementation of targeted MCOs.

It recommended that all MCO areas must fully employ the digitised find, test, trace, isolation, and support (FTTIS) system, which includes the proposed targeted mass testing strategy.

"A highly targeted MCO will minimise economic disruption, on top of reducing the spread of Covid-19, balancing the wellbeing of both lives and livelihoods.

"State and district health authorities must be empowered to work with external experts and determine clear and transparent thresholds for when an area should be placed under MCO.

"The thresholds should be defined according to population density, number of cases, and geo-characteristics of the area, and communicated clearly to the public," it said in a statement on Sunday (April 25).

EAG comprises representatives from the Academy of Medicine of Malaysia, Malaysian Medical Association, Malaysian Public Health Physicians Association, and the Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia, as well as two distinguished members of the medical fraternity.

It is chaired by former director-general of Health and International Medical University chairman Tan Sri Datuk Dr Abu Bakar Suleiman.

EAG also said mass targeted testing using antigen rapid test kits (RTK-Ag) must be promptly deployed for comprehensive Covid-19 surveillance.

It noted that the current testing guidelines which requires fulfilling persons-under-investigation (PUI) and close contact criteria, may result in undetected sporadic cases in the community.

"Machine learning and artificial intelligence tools should be better utilised for predictive risk modelling and assessment to identify hotspots and risk areas, even before an outbreak occurs.

"Evidence from a population-wide rapid antigen testing initiative in Slovakia showed that for Covid-19, alongside other mitigation measures, can decrease prevalence by up to 70%," it said.

EAG also suggested strengthening risk communication, noting that a greater understanding of the science behind Covid-19 measures will boost public trust and offset some of the pandemic fatigue, which has set in.

As such, it said it would improve SOP compliance in the long run.

EAG also proposed for "pop-up" vaccine registration and information centres to be established in high traffic public areas such as Ramadan bazaars, shopping malls and office buildings, in collaboration with non-government organisations, adding that the "pop-ups" can also be used as a rapid testing centre.

"Additionally, national community engagement programmes for encouraging vaccine registration and combating hesitancy among vulnerable and marginalised populations such as the elderly, Orang Asli, migrants, and the digitally illiterate must be urgently expanded," it said.

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