PETALING JAYA: Stringent surveillance on public health measures and increased vaccinations are needed to fight the Covid-19 Delta variant, say health experts.
Universiti Putra Malaysia medical epidemiologist Assoc Prof Dr Malina Osman said the high transmissibility of the Delta variant was responsible for the rising new cases documented in the past week.
“As the new cases increase, the number of those in critical condition and who need proper treatment has also increased.
“Once the critical cases are high, the number of deaths is also high as both indicators are correlated statistically,” she said in an interview yesterday.
With the identification of the Delta variant in most states, she said there should be more stringent surveillance on standard operating procedure compliance in all economic sectors which had been allowed to operate.
Meanwhile, she advised members of the public to take extra precautions when outdoors.
“Apart from putting on double masks, the use of eye and face shields is also recommended, particularly in a confined space for more than 15 minutes or in crowded areas.
“They are also advised to stay at home,” she said, adding that they should be out only for urgent matters, and more so during Hari Raya Haji next Tuesday.
“This is to avoid any potential increase in cases, like what we had in the recent post-Hari Raya Aidilfitri.
“If we don’t implement strict measures, it is possible that new waves of infection may occur,” she said.
On Thursday, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the Delta variant could infect someone in “just five seconds”, adding that the infectivity level of the virus was much higher too.
To prevent the Delta variant from spreading nationwide, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia epidemiologist Assoc Prof Dr Azmi Mohd Tamil said the best place to look at how it was being controlled was Labuan, where the transmission of the Delta variant in the country was first discovered.
Noting that Covid-19 immunisation was crucial, Dr Azmi said the ministry had ramped up vaccinations in Labuan that helped tone down the transmission of the virus there.
“We have to continue our efforts to vaccinate the public and InsyaAllah, we will prevail,” he said.
Dr Noor Hisham had said that to manage the variant in Labuan, more public health measures as well as a ramped-up vaccination drive was conducted.
He added that over 50% of the adult population in Labuan had already been vaccinated with at least one dose.
With such measures, he said Labuan only recorded 26 new cases a day compared to 1,340 cases a week during the height of the infection.
He said such measures could also be applied to the Klang Valley where the Covid-19 infection rate is currently high.
Dr Azmi advised Malaysians to stay home and avoid all possible contact with others, especially those with part-time helpers.
“If you have to go out, wear two layers of surgical masks over your nose and mouth and cover your eyes, either with a face shield or protective goggles,” he said.
The World Health Organisation has listed the Alpha (UK), Beta (South Africa), Gamma (Brazil) and Delta (India) as the variants of concern (VOC), while the variants of interest (VOI) are Eta (multiple countries), Iota (US), Kappa (India) and Lambda (Peru).
With Hari Raya Haji just around the corner, Dr Azmi said the strictest possible measures were already in place under the enhanced movement control order.
“Yet the number of cases kept rising to dizzying heights. Most probably, it is less effective because the new variants are more transmissible.
“I believe we have done the best in terms of those measures. Even those who are in prison and can’t move anywhere have also been infected.
“There are limits to what we can achieve with such lockdowns. You can stop it in some places, but it is getting through elsewhere,” he said, while emphasising that quick vaccinations remained the best way.
“New strategies need to be implemented fast to achieve this. This is our best exit strategy,” said Dr Azmi.
He also said that vaccination had proven to be effective in reducing the hospitalisation rate and preventing deaths among medical personnel in Malaysia.
“Of the 245,932 medical personnel vaccinated, only 3,106 (1.26%) were infected with Covid-19 despite being exposed on a daily basis.
“Only six out of the 3,106 (0.2%) required admission, and none were intubated or died. That is excellent news indeed,” he said.