Tony Pua: High number of Covid-19 cases due to insufficient testing

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The high number of Covid-19 cases is because the Health Ministry (MOH) has failed to carry out sufficient testing, said Tony Pua.

The Damansara lawmaker said data from the MOH revealed that this is the most obvious reason why the caseload and positivity rate had been rising persistently.

“Yesterday, the Deputy Health Director-General Health Dr Chong Chee Kheong, listed three factors for the worsening crisis. The first was the ‘looser’ movement-control order (MCO) after the enhanced MCO was lifted on July 17, while restrictions for limited economic sectors were eased,” he said in a statement today.

The other reasons cited were the consequence of the July 20 Aidiladha celebrations as well as the impact of the more dominant and infectious Delta strain of Covid-19 virus.

“However, neither MOH nor Dr Chong has to date provided any statistics to support these assertions.

TMI

“What Dr Chong failed to note, however, is the fact that the Klang Valley has been under MCO since May 24 (nearly 11 weeks), with varying degrees of restrictions. The overwhelming bulk of economic and social activities have been completely shut down,” Pua added.

In spite of the closures, Covid-19 cases have continued to rise and most of them have been classified as sporadic cases in the community.

Pua said the positivity rate was well above 6.5% for the first few weeks of MCO, but the drastic decline in testing has contributed significantly to the rise in cases.

Average daily test samples taken dropped by 34% – from 109,601 cases in the first week of MCO to only 72,308 cases in the fifth week.

The DAP national publicity secretary added that the severe shortage of testing led to the increased number of undetected cases in the community, as well as close contacts not being traced and isolated.

He said the absence of these measures have led to the drastic increase in positive cases in the last few weeks.

“It is true that the Health Ministry has since increased the number of test samples to above 140,000 samples a day in the last two weeks. However, the positivity rate has already spiked even faster to more than 13% this week. This is more than double the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended threshold of 5%.

“If at the positivity rate of 6.5%, the number of test samples taken was not sufficient, then it is crystal clear that at double the rate, 13% today, the number of tests being carried out is even more insufficient,” he added.

Pua called upon MOH to increase its targeted testing drastically and come up with a national testing plan as part of a whole-of-government and whole-of-nation approach to fight the worsening pandemic situation in the country.

“We must build a national capacity to test at least 1% – that is approximately 300,000 tests a day – as a contingency to deal with any further outbreaks in the future,” he said.

The ministry must also implement the Find, Test, Trace, Isolate and Support (FTTIS) methodology as proposed in the National Recovery Plan at a large scale to contain the spread of the virus.

He said without this, infections will continue to rise in the next few weeks until the community achieves herd immunity via vaccination or infection.

As a result of the rising infections, the healthcare system will become overstretched.

Pua, however, said this is not a plan for the MOH to execute alone. Ramping up testing would require the cooperation of all stakeholders, including private hospitals, private clinics, factories and workplaces, and even individuals via the now available self-test kits.  – TMI