Virologist: More data will better decide next steps

VIROLOGIST Dr Kumitaa Theva Das said being in the endemic phase means that Covid-19 does not go away completely but remains circulating within a region or globally, with an expected number of cases daily and predictable transmission rates.

“In an endemic phase, infections are manageable with lower cases and lower hospitalisations.

“With the discovery of Omicron, it may affect how soon we transition to the endemic phase.“For example, if it is discovered that the variant transmits at a higher rate than Delta, that would affect the R-nought (Rt) and total population that should be vaccinated to ensure that we are safe.

“Alternatively, if this variant only causes mild or no symptoms, we would need to increase testing to detect this variant quicker.

“To effectively transition to an endemic phase, the indicators may need to be reviewed once more information is obtained about Omicron,” she said.

She added that the government should increase public health capacity for the Test, Report, Isolate, Inform and Seek strategy to deal with surges in infections.

“This will enable localised control in the case of an outbreak so that there is no nationwide full lockdown,” she said.

The government had previously set seven criteria to be achieved before the Health Ministry could declare Malaysia as entering the endemic phase.

These include the number of beds being utilised in hospitals, intensive care units and Covid-19 Low-Risk Quarantine and Treatment Centres, the testing capacity at laboratories and the rate of positive cases.

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