PETALING JAYA, Jan 8: A number of former ministers and deputies have called on the government to ramp up mass testing in response to the spike in Covid-19 cases, many of which are asymptomatic.

This comes a day after Malaysia reported a record 3,027 new cases, breaking the previous high of 2,593 on Wednesday.

Former health minister Dzulkefly Ahmad and his former deputy, Dr Lee Boon Chye, and former energy, science, technology, environment and climate change minister Yeo Bee Yin and her former deputy, Isnaraissah Munirah Majilis, said the government must heed the call of medical experts and embark on a mass testing exercise.

“Since many cases are asymptomatic (about 80%), mass testing becomes very important to enable early isolation to take place and prevent further spreading and ‘spillovers’ into the community,” they said in a statement.

The four said with the total testing capacity hovering around 80,000 PCR tests a day, the country has the capability to do mass testing in targeted areas.

If cost is an issue, they said, the cheaper and faster RTK Antigen tests could be an effective alternative.

“As we do more testing, the number of positive cases will increase temporarily. But this is no time to hide our heads in the sand, We must face it head on, find all the positive cases in the community and then isolate them,” they said.

The group said the mass testing effort should begin with the screening of high-risk locations such as foreign workers’ quarters, prisons and communities surrounding those areas.

They said if the government does not invest in mass testing now, the human and economic cost resulting from this failure would far outweigh the costs of tests.

They also called for an overhaul of the contact tracing system, citing that MySejahtera had only directly detected about 4% of total reported cases.

“It shows that the government has not fully (or at all) leveraged big data analytics using the data collected through MySejahtera and combining it with other data available in government systems as well as public data that can be mined, such as posts with metadata and social media tags, to develop a more sophisticated way of tracing positive cases.

“We must keep innovating and not sit complacently on our early success and laurels,” they said.

Their statement added that the current situation will require a “whole of government” and “whole of society” approach, combined with the wider development of science and public health intervention best practices.


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