Covid-19: Sharp rise of serious cases

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There has been a sharp, three-fold increase in the number of Covid-19 patients in category 4 and 5 in recent weeks, says the health ministry.

Increase in:

  • Category 4 and 5 cases
  • Patients aged between 20 and 40
  • Dead-on-arrival cases

Its minister, Dr Adham Baba, said these patients previously made up only 5% of the total number, but such serious cases now account for 15% of patients in the ongoing third wave of the pandemic.

Category 4 involves symptomatic cases with lung infection requiring oxygen supply, while category 5 involves critical patients with multiple organ complications.

Speaking at a press conference today, Adham said there was also an increase in the number of patients aged between 20 and 40.

“We urge those who have been infected with Covid-19 to remain vigilant,” he said. “For those who are isolating at home but progress to category 4 and 5, please contact our health facilities immediately.”

According to Adham, 219 frontliners had tested positive despite receiving their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. Some 97 were also infected after both doses.

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Most of them, he said, were frontliners stationed in Selangor, Kedah and Kelantan.

He also said his ministry would discuss with the Covid-19 vaccine supply access guarantee special committee (JKJAV) to make vaccines compulsory or penalise those who failed to turn up for their vaccination appointments.

This comes after some 20,000 individuals in Kedah and Kelantan did not turn up for their vaccination appointments earlier this month.

Adham also said the government was ramping up its capacity for medical services to accommodate the latest surge in infections.

This included increasing the number of beds for Covid-19 patients at private hospitals, repurposing wards at public hospitals to treat more infected patients and referring non-Covid-19 patients to university medical centres such as Universiti Teknologi Mara and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia.

The ministry has also extended the contracts for 200 of its mental health counsellors until 2022 to assist those facing psychological issues due to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Malaysia today recorded 7,857 new Covid-19 cases, surpassing its highest count of 7,478 from yesterday, said director-general of health Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

Noor Hisham said that this brings the cumulative number of cases to 541,224.

This is the third consecutive day the daily tally has passed the 7,000 mark.

Selangor continues to record the highest number of infections with 2,675 cases, followed by Sarawak and Kelantan with 772 and 754 cases, respectively.

According to news portal Free Malaysia Today (FMT), a doctor has sounded the alarm over the high number of dead-on-arrival, or DOA, Covid-19 patients aged below 55, saying they represent a particularly dangerous group of virus spreaders.

FMT

Speaking to FMT on condition of anonymity, he said these were people who would travel to work.

“They will mingle about more than those in their 60s,” he said. “If they are asymptomatic, they are the most dangerous group in terms of spreading the virus.”

DOA patients are those who test positive after they die. The doctor said they would most likely be asymptomatic.

According to data obtained from the health ministry, 692 Covid-related deaths were reported between April 23 and May 20. Of the number, 75 were DOA patients and 27 of the 75 were aged between 25 and 54.

The doctor said it did not help that the young might think they were not prone to Covid-19 and would seek medical help only when it was too late.

He said the sudden surge in community cases was worrying as it would be difficult to test and contact-trace those affected.

There was also the possibility of DOA cases infecting others before they die and test positive. By then, the doctor said, it would be too late to do anything.

“We worry about DOAs because these are the cases that slip through the cracks,” he said.

The increase in the number of DOAs could mean that the infectivity of a new strain that causes minimal or no symptoms might be accelerating at such a rate that patients become sick and die too quickly to give them time to get medical help.

Of the 1,837 Covid deaths recorded from January to May 25, the doctor said, 217 were DOA cases, 81 of which were detected in May alone.

Throughout last year, only 35 DOA cases were recorded.

Of the 217 this year, 28.8% were detected in Sabah, followed by Pahang (20.65%), Labuan (16.67%) and Kuala Lumpur (14.35%). Selangor had 11.07%.

The doctor attributed the relatively low figure in Selangor to the mass testing being carried out in the state.

“The only way to overcome DOAs is to ramp up testing and conduct mass testing in the community,” he said.

“Because of current policies, many would have gone untraced. And now we have to go back and trace these cases plus more, which makes our job very difficult.”