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Contact tracing key in Covid-19 fight

19 Oct 2020 / 11:23 H.

Following the unexpected rise in Covid-19 cases hitting the country, it is crucial to bear in mind that Malaysians should remain vigilant and not take contact tracing lightly, as it is a vital way to curb the spread of Covid-19.

This is because contact tracing, which is defined as the process of identifying people who may have come into contact with someone infected with Covid-19 and subsequently collecting further information about these contacts, is essential for our country, particularly during this new wave of infections.

They are also likely to be at greater risk of infection, and potentially further infecting others.

Besides, contact tracing can determine the high-risk places for individuals to take action such as disinfection, and remind people to avoid these areas. It is now more useful as most of the rakyat are using the MySejahtera mobile application as well.

Contact tracing has now been made simple compared with the beginning of the pandemic as 17 million Malaysians are now using the MySejahtera app, as reported by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin during his recent announcement on Oct 6.

With more than 60% of the rakyat now using the app, it will significantly help the Ministry of Health (MoH) to conduct contact tracing activities. But to further ensure this, it is best for individuals who have not yet registered with the application to register and use it wisely in their daily lives.

Although it seems to be like a piece of good news, it does not mean that contact tracing is the only priority now. People should follow the standard operating procedures (SOP) and avoid the 3Cs as stated by the MoH, which are crowded places, confined spaces and close conversations in order to curb the Covid-19 outbreak.

Apart from the citizens’ responsibilities, it is also the responsibility of the person-in-charge of taking people’s information and checking their temperature to carefully ensure these individuals obey the SOP properly by complete monitoring.

This involves people’s compliance with QR code scanning, or manually writing their information, maintaining physical distancing and wearing a face mask while entering the premises.

Based on Crystal Watson, a senior scholar with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, contact tracing is the best method for handling Covid-19 in an ongoing way and allowing the economy to open up again.

Since Malaysia is in the recovery movement control order phase, contact tracing is essential to effectively balance both public health and economic aspects until a vaccine is found.

Previously, contact tracing was fully utilised by the government using the MySejahtera app and manual contact tracing to identify close contacts of infected individuals for clusters such as the Sivagangga cluster. Also, the MoH managed to control the Covid-19 spread for most of the clusters.

Although our country recently recorded 871 cases of Covid-19, which is the highest recorded, the government will undoubtedly be able to contain the spread of new clusters like how they successfully did in the previous clusters through the use of contact tracing activities.

However, people should be extra careful now by following the SOP as we are currently experiencing the third wave of Covid-19 infection, as reported by Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

Another crucial thing is people should never neglect the process of providing personal information so that it does not interfere with all the MoH activities to detect individuals with the infection.

Additionally, the MoH is using these categories of close contacts to determine the risks of the groups:

> A refers to individuals infected with Covid-19,

> B refers to individuals who have close contact with individuals from Category A and are required to do the swab test,

> C refers to individuals who have close contact with individuals from Category B and need to stay at home (home quarantine),

> D refers to individuals who have close contact with individuals from Category C, who can go out for work or other business, and

> E refers to individuals who are not related to any categories.

It implies that categories C and D should wait for the test results of B, so if B tests positive, C will become B, and D will become C. And if B tests negative, B has to do the 14-day home quarantine, while C and D are free to resume their activities as usual.

According to the MoH, close contact means:

> Family members (sleeping/eating together) of the same household or the same small group,

> Face to face for more than 15 minutes in an enclosed space at a distance of less than one metre,

> Not face to face but staying together in an air-conditioned closed room for more than two hours, and

> Riding the same vehicle between two seats over two hours.

People’s awareness of this crucial information will undoubtedly ease the process of contact tracing for the MoH as some individuals are still unaware of this.

But this kind of information does not mean keeping people in a state of panic, it is just to show how public awareness of contact tracing is vital in curbing the spread of Covid-19.

Indeed, people need to know at this juncture we are far from winning the war against Covid-19. So, stay safe, follow the SOP and let’s work together against this pandemic for our country’s public health.

Farhan Kamarulzaman is a Research Assistant at EMIR Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com

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