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Monday, December 28, 2020

'Warning signs' in keeping asymptomatic Covid-19 cases at home - ex-minister

 


COVID-19 | Asking Covid-19 patients without symptoms to self-quarantine at home is a sign that Malaysia is at the worst point of the pandemic thus far, opined former health minister Dzulkefly Ahmad.

This comes after Malay Mail quoted Health Ministry director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah on the new rule, saying healthcare facilities have been overwhelmed as daily new infections continue to rise above 1,000.

This marks a significant shift in pandemic management protocol in Peninsular Malaysia. Previously, all positive cases - regardless of whether they showed symptoms or not - were hospitalised.

Speaking to Malaysiakini, Dzulkefly noted that the same protocol had been employed in Sabah back in October at the height of the pandemic there.

“When he (Hisham) does this, these are all warning signs that the epidemic curve has crossed the healthcare capacity line.

“This is not new - this is exactly what happened in Sabah,” said the Kuala Selangor MP.

Hospitals in the East Malaysian state were previously overwhelmed after patients exceeded the number of available beds and both medical frontliners as well as volunteers became infected.

Dzulkefly - who heads the Selangor government’s Selangor Task Force for Covid-19 - said keeping less severe Covid-19 cases at home was inevitable if hospitals were filling up faster than patients were being discharged.

“Once we get into that stage, there is hardly any choice.

“There are no longer any options because if you put all asymptomatic cases in the hospitals, soon our hospitals will be overwhelmed,” he said.

“Once (hospitals) become overwhelmed, then we will be seeing more mortalities,” cautioned the toxicologist.

Malaysia has recorded more than 1,000 new Covid-19 cases every day since Dec 9.

Noor Hisham Abdullah

The bulk of these infections have been in the Klang Valley (Selangor and Kuala Lumpur), with case numbers surpassing Sabah. Cases in Johor are also rising.

Active cases in the country are now at a record high of 20,233.

Specific guidelines, quarantine centres

With asymptomatic cases now requested to self-isolate at home, Dzulkefly proposed that the Health Ministry enforce strict home quarantine measures to prevent the virus from spreading to the patient’s family members and housemates.

This could include a mechanism for patients to frequently self-report their activities to the authorities through mobile phone applications like MySejahtera and SELangkah.

Similarly, DAP's Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii urged the ministry to issue specific guidelines to the relevant patients.

Kelvin Yii

“I hope the ministry will issue new guidance as soon as possible to educate those tested positive who need to go through home quarantine procedures.

“It is not merely staying at home, but proper isolation in a specific room and not sharing public places such as bathrooms and kitchens. 

"Ideally, the entire household must also self-isolate together at home to reduce the risk of spreading it to the community or their place of work,” he said in a statement today.

The medical doctor urged more contact tracers be engaged to speed up the testing process.

“The best way to curb the spread is the speed of contact tracing and ideally, it should be done within 24 hours, at maximum 48 hours. The faster we can trace, the faster we can isolate to reduce the risk of more community spread,” Yii added.

Admitting that ensuring compliance to home quarantine procedures was very difficult, Dzulkefly suggested that the ministry place asymptomatic Covid-19 patients at quarantine centres.

“I am surprised why we are not doing all those things that they had done before, like the quarantine quarters... those settings are better controlled,” he said. - Mkini

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