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Covid-19: Flatten the curve? More tests may help….

Zaidi Azmi
Written by Zaidi Azmi

KUALA LUMPUR – April 4, 2020: When her fever worsened and she began to cough ever so often, 70-year-old Norserina Idris, was rushed to a government hospital in Kedah as her daughter feared that her mother has contracted the Covid-19 virus.

But after a few minutes of questioning, Norserina – who fell sick two weeks ago – was told to go home and given a few generic medications for the seasonal flu.

“They didn’t swab my mouth or do any test on me. I think they ruled me out [for Covid-19 infection] because I told them that I can’t recall being in contact with anyone who has the virus,” she said.

Fortunately, she recovered six days ago.

The diagnosis on her was indeed correct but because she was not tested, Norserina was not officially listed among the 43,462 Malaysians who have been tested – as of April 1 – for possible Covid-19 infection.

“Of the 43,462 those who tested negative are 32,894. While those tested positives are 2,908. However, we still have 7,660 pending results,” said Health director-Ggneral Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah at a daily press briefing on Wednesday.

On the outset, the amount of testing done – since the country recorded its first three cases on January 24 – seemed big but, in actuality, only 0.13 per cent of the 32.37 million Malaysians have been tested.

Consequently, this meant that the test done per million Malaysian population stood at 1,342.66.

The figures had also inadvertently, shown that the daily average of tests done throughout the past 15 days of the movement control order (MCO) stood at 2,897.4 which was not even half of Malaysia’s daily testing capacity of 7,000 tests – at only 41.38 per cent.

“Malaysia needs to ramp up testing by four to six times if it wants to flatten the Covid-19 epidemic curve,” paediatrician Datuk Dr Musa Nordin from KPJ Damansara Specialist Hospital wrote to The Mole.

He pointed out that the number of tests done by Malaysia was comparatively lower than other countries that have done well in containing the virus, such as Singapore and South Korea which have respectively done 6,800 and 6,500 tests per million population.

And to do rampant testing, Dr. Musa emphasises, “is a bedrock strategy” in outbreak management.

“It determines the burden of Covid-19 in the community. It directs healthcare providers towards targeted contact tracing and boost apps with data for mapping the movement of the infected and enforcement of individual quarantines.

“Testing also identifies clusters of infection and the hotspots for specific intervention, for example, intensive tracking and enhanced MCO. Over time, it will inform us whether our intervention is impacting in containing or mitigating the spread of the disease,” he wrote.

Malaysia is currently undergoing its third week of the MCO following a two-week extension to April 14.

As of 5pm today Malaysia had 217 new cases compared to yesterday’s increase of 208, making the total 3,333. There were also three more deaths to make the tally 53.

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About the author

Zaidi Azmi

Zaidi Azmi

If Zaidi Azmi isn’t busy finding his way in the city, this 26-year-old northern kampung boy can be found struggling to make sense of the Malaysian political scene. Zaidi can be reached at zaidiazmi91@gmail.com.