Uptick in Covid-19 cases should be expected over the next few days with more self-testing being done, deputy Health DG

PETALING JAYA: The public should not be alarmed by the rise in daily Covid-19 cases over the next few days as more people are being encouraged to perform self-testing for Covid-19 using rapid test kits, says deputy Health director-general Dr Chong Chee Kheong.

Dr Chong's reassurance came amid the Health Ministry's sanction for more people to make use of self-testing kits, which will uncover more cases in the short term, but will likely taper off soon.

“As we encourage more self-testing and RTK-Ag (antigen) use, we can expect the number of cases to rise in the next few days.

“Do not be alarmed by this. We need to identify as many cases as possible to reduce transmission in the community.

“As more of these positive cases and their contacts are isolated and quarantined, cases will start to gradually come down in the weeks to come.

“Once that happens, the testing will be re-strategised to ensure effective detection of cases for isolation and monitoring,” he said in a statement on Wednesday (July 28).

Describing the Covid-19 as “the worst that we have faced as a community and health service in our generation”, Dr Chong said the ministry has not given up and will persevere to offer the best it can.

“We thank you for understanding our limitations and for the enormous groundswell of support that we have seen.”

He said the Greater Klang Valley Special Task Force (GKV STF) had been set up for over two weeks to deal with the huge Covid-19 outbreak in the region.

“The GKV STF has a good team from the Health Ministry (MOH), the army, and experts from outside the ministry.

“We have been working continually to put into place measures to contain the impact of the outbreak - saving lives is our priority,” he said.

On why the numbers are still rising in the Greater Klang Valley despite the ramp-up in vaccination, Dr Chong said it is important to know that the size of the outbreak is far larger than the numbers detected each day.

“Many asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic individuals, who are not aware of their infection, are spreading the virus. Remember that the vaccine effectiveness is best two weeks after the second dose, so this takes time.

“An important contribution (to the high number of infections) is the Delta variant (of the virus) that has a high infectivity rate.

“In addition, we recognise, from the experience of nations with high vaccination rates, that infections can still occur due to the Delta variant, although the hospitalisation and severe infections are significantly reduced,” he said.

On key measures to stem the outbreak, Dr Chong said the GKV STF has shifted from containment to mitigation efforts, with the objective of preventing death and minimising the spread of disease.

Given the current situation, he said several of the key initiatives include increasing the capacity of beds, ICU care, oxygen supply, manpower deployment and use of volunteers; moving non-Covid-19 patients to the private sector to free up beds, and obtaining help from the Army that has been invaluable in logistical and manpower support.

“We have strengthened the Covid-19 Assessment Centres (CAC) by offering virtual assessments for asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic patients and enhanced home monitoring management.

“We hope to offer more RTK-Ag tests to health clinics and general practitioners via sales of Medical Device Authority-approved test kits to allow for wider testing. Home saliva test kits for self-testing are also available in pharmacies for the public to purchase,” he said.

Besides, the ministry has been improving support for frontliners, as well as strengthening the social and emotional support systems for the public, acquiring and allocating funding to procure additional medical equipment and medication, and attempting to improve our public communication on critical issues and keep people updated.

“Our staff from the hospitals, health facilities and management areas are exhausted, but we are still here for you and will continue to work to overcome this crisis,” assured Dr Chong, adding that the ministry thanked the members of the public who have cooperated by limiting their social contact and following standard operating procedures (SOPs).

He also urged those who think they have been exposed but are not identified as close contacts to be tested at private health facilities, including doing a saliva-based self-test.

“Vaccination will greatly reduce the risk of infection, so register and get vaccinated as soon as you get an appointment. Those who are contacts of positive cases should defer vaccination for at least 10 days,” he said.

Dr Chong also appealed to the community for more support to volunteer at CACs, health centres or hospitals, while others can also help boost the social and emotional support systems for the public.

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