GEORGE TOWN: Malaysians have been advised to continue taking precautions since Covid-19 has not left us for good.
Universiti Sains Malaysia virologist Dr Kumitaa Theva Das said there was a rising number of cases recently, but the situation was still under control.
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"Malaysia reported a slight increase recently with Sarawak, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Melaka exceeding 100 cases, while other states had between eight and 59 cases daily.
"Globally, within the same time period, some countries such as Brunei recorded an 80% increase and Singapore 6%, while others reported an increase of cases in their countries as well.
"The fluctuation of numbers is expected but Covid-19 is still under control.
"Key indicators that are more crucial include hospitalisation and intensive care unit (ICU) utilisation, which dropped to 2% in Malaysia.
"In other words, while there were more cases reported, the cases were not severe, most likely because a majority of people in Malaysia have been vaccinated and the vaccines are still working," she said on Tuesday (Nov 28).
Kumitaa added that an increase in cases does not mean that there are new dangerous variants.
"Two of the four variants of interest (VOIs), namely XBB.1.5 and XBB.1.16, have been circulating in Malaysia.
"There are also other variants in the country, but as they all fall under the Omicron family, the symptoms would most likely be similar and not something to be alarmed about," she said.
However, Kumitaa advised that precautions are still needed just like with any other disease.
“Living with Covid-19 means that the virus may most likely always be there, and we do need to be aware of it.
“The number of cases would most likely increase every time there is a large amount of movement, such as during festive seasons, when more people are travelling or in crowded areas, such as towards the end of the year.
“After living with the virus for a few years, I believe people do know how to best protect themselves. Boosters are available if they have not already got it.
“Face masks are cheap and easy to don when they are in crowded places, travelling, or fall in the high-risk category such as the elderly, immuno-compromised or have comorbidities," she added.
She urged those with symptoms to get tested to avoid passing Covid-19 on to others, as well as to practise good hygiene.
However, Kumitaa said under normal circumstances, masking up at all times was no longer necessary. “Covid-19 now almost falls into a similar category as influenza and respiratory infections.
“Respiratory diseases are still circulating but with surveillance in place, there are no mandatory measures required.
“The practices we have at the moment are good enough," she said.
Penang Hospital infectious disease unit head Datuk Dr Chow Ting Soo confirmed that there has been a rise in cases and hospital admissions, but this could be due to the higher number of symptomatic cases.
She said people may seem less bothered with Covid-19 due to the perception that the disease is no longer there or not as severe.
"This is a ‘false fact’ – the disease and virus are still around us and for certain groups of people such as the elderly, immuno-compromised patients and those with multiple comorbidities, the implications of being infected can be severe and lethal.
“The last immunisation we were given was in 2021 and many had only three doses of vaccines, so their immunity is waning," she said.
Penang health committee chairman Daniel Gooi Zi Sen said Penang has been recording an average of 50 cases daily but added that health facilities here were coping well. He said on Tuesday, 53 cases were reported with the south-west district recording the most at 15 cases.
“These are cases reported due to endemic situations now and although there might be cases, they are not severe," he said.