Fourth wave can involve mutant strains of Covid-19

08 Apr 2021 / 12:06 H.

PETALING JAYA: Malaysians have been urged to not get too complacent as a fourth wave of
Covid-19 infections could strike.

Medical experts warned that it could involve mutant strains of the virus that are more contagious and resistant to available vaccines.

Virologist Prof Dr Sandy Loh of Universiti Nottingham Malaysia expressed fears that the mutant strains in the fourth wave could increase the number of patients in hospitals with severe Covid-19 cases.

“Without vaccination, the virus will mutate in a patient with a weakened immune system,” she said yesterday.

“The virus has adapted and can replicate or transmit easier. Without a sufficiently vaccinated population, herd immunity would not be achieved anytime soon as the vaccination roll-out in the country is still slow.”

She said the highly contagious imported South African (B1351) and UK (B117) variants of the coronavirus had spread to the country.

It could spread in the community as Malaysia has not been testing enough to capture mild or asymptomatic cases, only detecting people with symptoms or having severe conditions.

Loh is also concerned about the relatively low number of registrations for the first phase of vaccination. She fears that it could be the same in the second phase.

“There isn’t any concrete evidence from the Centre of Disease Control and the World Health Organisation on whether those who have gotten their second dose have achieved full protection immunity or are unable to transmit the disease (as asymptomatic carriers),” she said.

“More priority measures should be rolled out to halt an unexpected rise in mutant cases. Allowing interstate travel may also pose added risks.”

Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy told theSun that countries such as Malaysia are now experiencing plateaus, or the quiet before an approaching storm.

Its head, Azrul Mohd Khalib, said lessons can be learnt from Chile as the country has vaccinated at least a third of its population and yet it is experiencing a major surge in cases.

“Any country is vulnerable to surges of infections until the majority of people in that population have been vaccinated. We are likely to experience a fourth wave and even another surge later in the year if we are not careful.

“The easing of restrictions is inevitable as well as the lifting of the work-from-home (order). We have to learn to live with it as best as we can while we wait for our turn to get vaccinated,” he said.

Epidemiologist Prof Dr Malina Osman said the fourth wave is expected to occur but easing movement restrictions at this moment would be crucial for economic revival.

“We need to balance the economy and health. At the same time, each individual plays an important role to safeguard each other. Putting the responsibility of preventing infections solely on the authorities is inappropriate as most of the preventive measures can be taken at the individual level.”

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