‘Temperature checks not very effective’


Common practice: Experts believe that using face masks should be prioritised for Covid-19 prevention. — ZHAFARAN NASIB/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: Even when feeling feverish, a person’s body temperature can still hover between high and normal over the course of one day, so priority should be on wearing face masks, say experts.

Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital infectious diseases physician Dr Steven Lim said temperature screening might not be effective in preventing the spread of Covid-19, adding that a person’s body temperature varied across the day, and could fluctuate with physical activity.

“To avoid false assurance, we need to understand that a normal body temperature does not exclude a person from contracting Covid-19.

“Considering these physiological factors along with the fact that the majority of Covid-19 patients are either asymptomatic or have mild symptoms without fever, temperature screening may not be effective at all,” he said.

Wearing face masks and practising physical distancing, he said, remained key to prevent community infection.

Dr Lim said people should also refrain from close contact with other people should they feel unwell with symptoms such as a cough, sore throat, runny nose or fever.

Universiti Sains Malaysia virologist Dr Muhammad Amir Yunus welcomed the government’s move to make body temperature checks at premises optional rather than compulsory.

“If you walk outside on a hot day and enter a premises, your temperature reading is definitely going to be high.

“As most of the cases are asymptomatic, we won’t be able to detect infected individuals by only screening their body temperature,” he said.

With the threat of new Covid-19 variants, Dr Muhammad Amir said wearing face masks was important, especially in closed and crowded spaces.

“The public must always maintain good hygiene, practise physical distancing, and minimise contact in public spaces,” he added.

As Malaysia prepares to move into the endemic stage, the Health Ministry announced on Thursday a shorter quarantine period for some travellers as well as doing away with the pink surveillance wristbands and phasing out temperature screening.

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