KJ: Don’t look for Omicron trouble

KLANG: No one should intentionally get infected with the Covid-19 Omicron variant for the sake of herd immunity as it is not a proven approach, says the Health Minister.

Khairy Jamaluddin said despite the variant appearing to have milder symptoms and being less deadly, this was no reason for anyone to get infected or refuse a Covid-19 vaccine booster dose.

“It doesn’t matter what sort of variant – Omicron, Delta, Alpha or Beta. Don’t go voluntarily looking to get infected.

“We don’t know what the effects of the virus will be on a patient, whether one is vaccinated or not, or what the ‘Long Covid’ syndrome is going to be like.

“There’s still no scientific proof to say that getting infected with the Omicron variant will give us herd immunity.

“We know Omicron is milder, thank God, but it doesn’t mean we should go out there and get infected,” he reiterated, advising the people to get their booster dose for the best protection.

“Long Covid” refers to a variety of symptoms experienced by some patients long after the typical convalescence period. These include extreme fatigue, persistent cough, muscle weakness, memory lapses, mood changes, sleeping difficulty, headaches, joint pain and others.

Speaking to reporters after opening the national-level GO-NGO Model KK 2.0 programme to end HIV infections at the Pandamaran health clinic here yesterday, Khairy said immunity developed from any natural Covid-19 infection should not be the basis to get infected, describing it as “very silly” to do.

“The ministry’s message is simple: you do not want to catch Covid-19. Regardless of what variant it is, don’t catch the virus intentionally,” he said when asked about South African virologists’ statement that Omicron’s high transmissibility and yet milder symptoms and lower mortality rates could help build herd immunity.

Khairy said the ministry expected an increase in Covid-19 cases in January and February with the year-end holiday travel and more movement because of Thaipusam and Chinese New Year.

However, he said as long as hospital and intensive care unit admissions were under control and the death rate continued to dip, “we are in control”.

“We cannot just look at daily cases, but also the other indicators. We need to look at the severity and hospital admissions. We are not out of the woods yet,” he added.

He said Malaysia has made a lot of progress since last year, hence “some freedom” was proper for all to observe their celebrations in a safe and careful manner while adhering to the standard operating procedure.

“Almost 99% of our Omicron cases are in Category 1, so we’re monitoring closely,” he said, adding that 2022 was about transferring responsibilities to empower the community.

The GO-NGO Model KK 2.0 programme is a collaboration between the government and NGOs using government health clinics nationwide to reach out to and rehabilitate HIV patients.

Khairy said he hoped that with the programme being expanded nationwide, more people with HIV infections would step forward for treatment.

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