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Best shot against Covid

22 Jul 2021 / 08:43 H.

PETALING JAYA: The genomic surveillance and sequencing procedure has been singled out as Malaysia’s best weapon in the Covid-19 war.

Health experts said this strategy, coupled with strict adherence to standard operating procedures (SOP), will be more helpful in addressing the pandemic than a total lockdown.

“Lockdowns have always had limited applications and yield unsustainable results,” said Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy chief executive officer Azrul Mohd Khalib.

He pointed out that in the United Kingdom, 7.5% of all confirmed cases are put through the genomic sequencing process.

“However, we do not do enough sampling for genomic sequencing so it is not enough to conclude that the sharp increase in the number of cases are caused by the Delta variant.”

On July 13, the Health Ministry reported that out of 293 cases of concern and interest, 67 were of the Delta strain and 195 were the Beta variant.

“We need to identify the variant through genomic surveillance to help us break the chain of infection,” Azrul said.

However, he conceded that while genomic surveillance and sequencing is necessary, it is also resource intensive.

He said the effectiveness of the current lockdown remains questionable.

“They are only meant to give breathing room to the healthcare system and not intended to eliminate infection.”

Azrul explained that lockdowns are considered “blunt” interventions that can actually be more harmful because they do not distinguish between areas with high and low numbers of cases.

“They give a false sense of security. They are not solutions and neither do they provide permanent reductions in the number of cases.”

Azrul said the SOP, which includes maintaining social distancing and avoiding crowded areas, is what will make a difference.

He was responding to a query from theSun on the possible link between the increase in the number of cases and the Delta variant.

On the other hand, Universiti Malaya head of social and preventive medicine Dr Victor Hoe believes a lockdown will go a long way in reducing infections.

“A proper lockdown is effective against any variant, as the mode of the transmission is the same. If we had had a complete lockdown at the start of the full movement control order, things could be different now,” he said.

Hoe added that lockdowns do not seem to work now because many businesses are still allowed to operate.

“This has led to higher transmission at the workplace. Infected workers will then bring the virus home to their families. At the same time, workers may also bring the virus from home to infect colleagues at work.”

He also cited failure to strictly observe the SOP as a reason for the spread of the virus, and advised the public to be more vigilant and treat everyone they meet as a potential Covid-19 patient with the potential of infecting others.

“Remember, 85% of those who have
Covid-19 do not show any symptoms, but they can still transmit the virus,” he said.

On Monday, Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the number of new daily cases breached the 10,000 mark for the seventh consecutive day, with 10,972 new infections.

The infections were detected from the screening of 102,194 individuals

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