Malaysia Dateline

How many of the 9,117 cases yesterday were Omicron and how many Delta?

New Covid-19 cases rose to an alarming 9,117 cases yesterday. There was a rise in the ASEAN region, with even Singapore rising to 10,390 cases after recording 13,208 cases the previous day; Indonesia recording 22,729 cases when for three months from Oct.15, 2021 to January 17, 2022 it had been recording three-digit number of new daily Covid-19 cases; Thailand 10,490, Vietnam 12,017 cases while Philippines seems to be in decline with 7,689 cases.

I asked a public health expert for his interpretation of the latest Covid-19 pandemic in Malaysia, and these are his views:

“Looking at the charts, we can see clearly that the daily cases began to take a slight rise from the 3K range to presently the 9K range. It is predicted that the numbers may rise until the 20-25K range in the coming 3-4 weeks.

“What is important to note is that although the daily cases have increased significantly, there is only very minimal increase in ICU bed occupancy and deaths telling us that for the moment, the Covid variant infecting Malaysia seem to be the Omicron variant, which characteristically causes an asymptomatic infection or a mild flu like illness from which the patient usually recovers (not requiring oxygen therapy nor even hospitalization).

“In the last 2 weeks, the ICU occupancy has increased from 49% till the present 52%. This small rise may not be significant although we should keep monitoring closely.

“The problem that Malaysia faces presently, is that although the disease pattern seems to suggest Covid Omicron infection, it does look like there are still pockets of Covid Delta around.

“The MOH should be encouraged to do more genome sequencing so that we may know the proportion of Delta to Omicron infection.

“In UK and also Denmark since the governments are confident that Omicron is predominant, they have removed all restrictions and allow the countries to return back to normal. Denmark even declaring that the pandemic is over.

“We should encourage MOH to tell us, what proportion of the 7,000 cases the previous day and the 9,000 cases yesterrday were Omicron and what proportion were Delta. This piece of information is vital to help guide health policies and restrictions especially with the Johore state election and also the GE15 approaching.

“Now that Omicron is here what does it mean? Any observer following the progress of Omicron through S Africa, UK, USA, Germany, Denmark, Philippines, and even Singapore will know that it causes mainly an asymptomatic infection in many and a mild flu-like illness in others, which usually does not require hospitalization or oxygen therapy, but only stay at home (work from home), and usually get well in 2-3 days. Occasionally 4-5 days. Following recovery, the patient gets natural more comprehensive immunity, usually lasting 1 year.

“As a society moving forward should omicron predominate, we can expect a good level of community immunity which will help us to live with Covid as it remains endemic. Looks like that is what Denmark and UK hope to achieve, as they remove restrictions.

“What else have we learn from monitoring Omicron progress globally? Well we now know that because Omicron is very infectious (almost as infectious as measles), where there is a case, it will spread like wild fire and soon there will be doubling, tripling and exponential rise in cases, with almost no rise in ICU bed occupancy and also almost no rise in deaths. This will go on till the cases peak. In S Africa, the cases peak after 5-6 weeks. That was also the situation in UK. In Philippines the cases peaked in 3 weeks.

“In Malaysia, we can expect that cases will rise in the next 3-4 weeks and then will peak and slowly decline.

“Vaccines does little to influence this spread. In fact there are many reports that seem to suggest that vaccinated people are more likely to get that Omicron variant.

“There is a social media spreading a rumour that Putrajaya will lockdown the country again.

“I hope not. There is really no need to lockdown because healthcare facilities will not be stretched, and there should be no pressure on ICU beds and oxygen need. There may be a slight increase in absenteeism, especially for those who cannot work from home.

“The good news is that this Covid 19 pandemic is coming to an end. The Danes are rather optimistic, I think. Things can still go wrong as we are always worried of new variants which may surprise us.”

The optimism of this public health expert is bolstered by the low mortality figures for the ASEAN countries yesterday – Malaysia 14, Indonesia 44, Philippines 1, Thailand 21 and Singapore 2.

So can the Ministry of Health tell Malaysians how many of the 9,117 new Covid-19 cases yesterday were Omicron and how many Delta?

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Media statement by DAP MP for Iskandar Puteri Lim Kit Siang in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, 6th January 2022.