Urgent need to ramp up Covid-19 testing capacity, stresses Dr Kelvin


By John Isaac

THE Health Ministry and Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) must ramp up their testing capacity in view of the increasing Covid-19 cases in Sarawak.

This is to provide a better picture of the Covid-19 situation in the state and be transparent which such data, especially when deciding to impose another round of MCO.

Bandar Kuching MP, Dr Kelvin Yii said yesterday, every district in Sarawak recorded a Covid-19 case, showing how widespread the disease is in the community.

“We have basically failed to take pro-active measures to protect our Green Zones and now every district including those in the rural areas where health facilities are lacking have been affected.

“However even with such high cases, we are not testing enough which means the number of cases could be higher, and be even more widespread in the community,” he said.

Based on known data from yesterday, 4,050 tests were done and 587 positive cases recorded.

Which means the positive rate yesterday was 14.49 per cent – almost triple the recommended rate by the World Health Organisation (WHO) which is below 5 per cent.

“Such high positive rates have been consistent for the past week ranging from 8-14 per cent which shows we are severely under-testing.

“The rate of infection per 100,000 population in Sarawak is also one of highest in the nation.

“If we observe positive cases in Sarawak, there is still a high percentage of sporadic cases or cases that are not linked to known existing clusters. That shows how widespread it is in the community,” pointed out Dr Kelvin.

That is why there is an urgent need to ramp up testing in Sarawak and transparently communicate the situation to the people.

One of the keys to contain cases in an area is to ramp up testing aggressively. In doing so, we can initiate containment by detecting cases quickly, do necessary contact tracing and then isolation within the recommended 48 hours, he added.

More transparency needed 

SDMC should also be transparent with their communication with the public.

“I understand the need to not create panic, but keeping on the narrative that everything is under control and doing the same old things over and over again expecting a different result is like burying their head in the sand”.

While there are talks of an impending MCO, such a decision must be studied properly and based on scientific parameters.

“I know it is a tough decision but based on data that is known including our infection rates, positive rates and even ICU beds capacity, we may need some form of circuit -breaker in certain districts, but maybe not the whole of Sarawak.

“To protect the other districts, strict inter-district and inter-zone travel restrictions should be in place.

“All set SOPs and regulations must also be consistently implemented and enforced. That is why I strongly disagree with the “exemption” given by SDMC on selective implementation of Bazaar Ramadan even in high-risk areas,” he said.

If there is an implementation of MCO 3.0, there must also be a better exit strategy in place.

We cannot keep on implementing MCO and expecting it to address the issue as it comes at a high economic cost.

The government should look at also helping all industries that are going to be affected.

Regardless, the public should be properly informed, then be given assurance of all the steps that are being taken to address the issue.

“In a public health crisis, we need to get the public to trust the system and the best way is to transparent and pro-active in all the measures taken and ensure it is implemented properly without any double standards,” he stressed.