Health experts: Low testing contributes to low Covid-19 cases

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Malaysians should not let their guard down with yesterday’s low number of Covid-19 cases as there was a parallel decline in the number of screening conducted.

Lim Huey Teng/Reuters

Malaysia yesterday reported 4,949 new Covid-19 cases, the first time in 27 days cases dropped below the 5,000-mark.

The last time Malaysia logged cases below 5,000 was on May 18, when 4,865 cases were reported.

Health Ministry’s data, however, showed only 70,044 tests were conducted as of yesterday, the lowest number this month.

During the first five days of June, Malaysia conducted more than 100,000 tests daily, and the new infections then were more than 7,000 cases on those days.

Health experts said a drop in the number of tests is a concern because it may portray an entirely different picture to the public.

Galen Centre for Health & Social Policy chief executive Azrul Mohd Khalib said a high number of testing should be conducted regardless of the daily outcome of the number of infections.

“Our message is that Malaysia must maintain a high level of testing and it should not be affected by weekends or public holidays.

“The fact that our number of daily cases dipped when testing is reduced, is a cause for concern.

“It also shows that our testing is still not at the level where it should be. Testing should be maintained at a high level regardless or not the cases drop,” he told the Malaysian Insight.

Consultant paediatrician Dr Amar Singh HSS took to Twitter to say that the daily cases yesterday could have been high if the testing were at peak.

“No celebration today please, with 4,949 reported cases.

“Test positivity is high at 7.07% and test number is very low at 70,004,” he tweeted yesterday.

Malaysia has seen a drop in cases for the past four days, with yesterday being the lowest.

In a latest tweet, Dr Amar shared a statistical graphic saying that the number of Covid-19 cases could have breached the 7,000-mark if 100,000 tests were conducted yesterday.

Malaysia conducted 90,238 tests on June 12 (5,793 positive cases), 80,130 tests on June 13 (5,304 positive cases), while 70,044 tests yesterday (4,949 positive cases).

In contrast, Dr Amar said if the test numbers were adjusted to 100,000 for the past three days, it would see an upward trend due to the positivity rate, where on June 12 cases would be at 6,420 cases, June 13 at 6,620 cases and June 14 at 7,060 cases.

Dr Amar said the daily numbers would make more sense if the test numbers and positivity rates are shared as well.

Backing Dr Amar’s claim, Azrul said testing is also important for early detection of the virus.

He said treatment can start early and lives could be saved.

“Today we are seeing more people who are brought into hospital at category 3,4 and 5.

“This is because people are not getting treated earlier than they should. That is directly linked to testing.

“If people know their status early, they can get treatment earlier. If they get treatment earlier, it will more likely save their lives,” he said.

Azrul also agreed that the number of cases could drop due to the current lockdown but added it could surge again once the lockdown is lifted.

“It is important for us to know that Malaysia in June 2020 and today is not the same,” he said, adding that the country is reporting more than 5,000 daily cases in a lockdown situation. – TMI