Malaysia must make Covid-19 tests mandatory to all, in order to capture, isolate asymptomatic cases and prevent them from spreading the virus

(Photo by Sam Fong/The Edge filepix)

(Photo by Sam Fong/The Edge filepix)

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KUALA LUMPUR (July 1): The rakyat are grateful to the government for the various assistance given to the rakyat affected by Covid-19, as well as the implementation of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK).

Daily Covid-19 infections in Malaysia have exceeded 4,000 for many months, while deaths from the pandemic have also been rising.

The situation is very worrying, especially when combined with the recent cases caused by the more virulent Delta variant of the coronavirus.

The Ministry of Health is losing control of the battle against Covid-19. We are performing worse than countries with larger populations, such as Thailand, Vietnam, Korea, Japan and China.

We must do mandatory testing on all inhabitants of Malaysia. China had efficiently performed mandatory testing on the affected population to immediately identify, isolate and treat both asymptomatic and symptomatic cases.

China tested 11 million people in Wuhan for Covid-19 in only nine days, and 10 million people in Qingdao in a mere five days.

China, which has a population of 1.4 billion people, only reports single or double-digit daily infections, whereas Malaysia with a population of 32.72 million reports four-digit infections every day.

The need for mandatory testing is due to the high percentage of Covid-19 asymptomatic cases. As reported by The Star in July last year, health director-general Tan Sri Noor Hisham said 75% of Covid-19 infections in Malaysia were asymptomatic, meaning patients had no symptoms, while only 25% were symptomatic, showing symptoms.

On Dec 28 last year, the New Straits Time had quoted him as saying that 89% of Covid-19 cases were asymptomatic. According to a Berita Harian report on May 15 this year, the majority of Covid-19 infections in Selangor were asymptomatic, and were detected during the free testing drive undertaken by the state government.

Now, the Ministry of Health has recently reported that 80% of Covid-19 cases are sporadic – that is, they cannot be identified with any cluster. I believe that most sporadic cases have contracted the virus from asymptomatic cases.

Unfortunately, the ministry is focused on treating symptomatic cases, while giving less attention to the widespread asymptomatic cases in Malaysia.

This is the MoH’s key failure in fighting Covid-19.

The MoH’s strategy of target testing for Covid-19 via contact tracing for many months, together with the movement control order which has been enforced for almost a month, has not reduced daily four-digit infections.

The "war" strategy must change, as old strategies used repeatedly will continue to produce bad results.

If the government lacks logistical support to undertake mandatory nationwide testing concurrently with the vaccination programme, the government can start initially with mandatory testing on all residents of the Klang Valley – Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya. The Klang Valley is chosen due to high Covid-19 cases in the region.

The asymptomatic cases are quietly infecting others who think they are perfectly healthy.

The continued daily four-digit infections have affected the rakyat adversely and will delay economic recovery.

I hope the Ministry of Health changes its testing strategy urgently. The Delta variant and the large foreign labour and PATI, coupled with the various celebrations, will worsen the pandemic.

The outlook is very grim.

May Allah protect Malaysia from the Covid-19 pandemic. Aminyarabbalalamin.

Tan Sri Adzmi Abdul Wahab is managing director of Edaran Otomobil Nasional Bhd from 1992 to 2005. Prior to that, He had also served in various capacity within the civil service, namely in Central Procurement and Contract Management in Ministry of Finance; Investment Promotion in Pahang Tenggara Development Authority, Public Enterprise Management in Implementation Coordination Unit (Prime Minister’s Department), and Regional Planning in Klang Valley Planning Secretariat (Prime Minister’s Department).