Finally, New Coronavirus Cases Plunge To 2-Digit – But Here’s Why It’s Too Early To Pop The Champagne

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Apr 16 2020
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The last time Malaysia reported 2-digit new Coronavirus cases were on March 14 (35 cases), about a month ago. Since then, the country has been plagued with 3-digit cases – until on Wednesday (April 15) – when new cases suddenly plunged to 85. A day earlier, there were 170 new cases. That means a 50% drop, the lowest since the declaration of a lockdown.


Unfortunately, there was one new death, pushing the death toll to 83. That’s an average of 2.8 deaths every day since the country registered its first death on March 17. The total cases of Covid-19 so far have climbed to 5,072. On the same day, 169 infected patients have recovered, bringing the total recoveries to 2,647 – a commendable recovery rate of 52.2%.


So, should the people start popping champagne? From its peak of 235 cases (March 26) to the latest 85 cases, it appears the country has won the war against the virus. The answer is a no-brainer “NO” simply because it’s too early to tell if the worst is over. While this is the first time the new cases have dropped from 3-digit to 2-digit, there had been quite a number of false alarms prior.

Coronavirus - COVID-19 - Malaysia Confirmed Cases - Jan to 15-Apr 2020

Coronavirus - COVID-19 - Malaysia Confirmed Cases - Jan to Feb 2020

Coronavirus - COVID-19 - Malaysia Confirmed Cases vs Deaths - 1-Mar to 15-Apr 2020

Common sense says we need a consistent 2-digit of new cases for at least one week. Looking at the chart, there were at least 3 cycles of yo-yo which had tricked us into believing that the pathogen has been defeated. Besides, the recovery rate has just crossed above active cases and its unknown if this pattern can persist over the time.


But there’s a huge problem – the lack of data in terms of the number of tests being done on a daily basis. While Health Ministry director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has done a great job, people would certainly be more impressed and confident if he also discloses the number of “tests on new patients” during his daily briefing about new cases, deaths and recoveries.


Sure, Dr Noor reveals the cumulative number of tests during his daily briefing. But that number could be a mixture of tests on “existing and new” patients. Therefore, the number of new cases revealed during the daily briefing could be misleading. The Health Ministry claims that the country’s current testing capacity for the Covid-19 infection stands at 11,500 samples a day.

Dr Noor Hisham - Health Director-General

That capacity reportedly will be increased with the addition of 5 new laboratories in Tawau, Sandakan, Miri, Bintulu and Kluang. However, according to Dr Amar-Singh HSS, a senior consultant paediatrician, the actual test availability is merely between 1,500 to 3,500. Even then, only about 20% of those tests is used to detect for the Coronavirus in the public.


In essence, the remaining 80% of the tests are attempts to re-test confirmed cases or suspected cases which were negative in the first test. To make matters worse, the limitation of testing capacity at 1,500 and 3,500 has created thousands of pending tests every day. The turnaround time to get results of tests could be as fast as 48 hours or at worst case – 5 to 7 days.


That’s why we said the Health Ministry was basically “fire-fighting” instead of launching a pro-active mission to detect the spread of Covid-19 by testing the community at large. The poor healthcare staffs were already bogged down with testing limitations. Hence, the ministry could only do “targeted” testing – putting resources in an area that has confirmed cases.

Coronavirus - Testing at Laboratory

In a nutshell, it means the ministry does not have the luxury of time and resources to go hunting for the virus. The virus, in the form of infected patients, comes to hunt the ministry instead. For example, after 15 cases of Coronavirus infections were detected at Selangor Mansion and Malayan Mansion in the Jalan Masjid India area, the authorities moved in to lockdown the two buildings.


That explains why we are being bombarded with news of more districts being declared as a red zone. With the promotion of Muar district from orange to red zone, Malaysia now has a total of 27 red zones, categorised as districts with more than 41 cases of Covid-19. Like it or not, it’s too early to say the pandemic is being contained, even with the latest drop of confirmed cases.


It certainly didn’t instil confidence when Dr Noor Hisham also reveals that the Health Ministry has identified 8,616 tahfiz madrassah students that need to be tested and screened for the pathogen. He said – “So far, we have screened 1,736 students at the schools, while many of the others have already gone back to their homes.”

Coronavirus - Hulu Langat Lockdown

Apparently, 217 of the 1,736 students screened have been tested positive – a staggering 12.5% rate – involving four Coronavirus clusters of four madrassah schools in four states (Pahang, Penang, Selangor and Melaka). While the primary Tabligh cluster has shrunk from 60% to 40% of the total cases, other sub-clusters connected to the religious gathering have slowly but surely emerged.


Just 3 days ago, The Health Ministry has identified 25 clusters and sub-clusters of the Covid-19 disease in the country. Now the total number of clusters and sub-clusters has increased to 28. Make no mistake. The main Tabligh cluster at the Sri Petaling Masjid Jamek mosque has not stopped spreading. Dr Noor unveiled that the Sri Petaling cluster had an increase of 20 new positive cases as of Wednesday.


There has been silence from police over the remaining Tabligh religious members who refused to come forward to be tested. For example, what’s the status of the 3,800 Tabligh members whom Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that the police was still tracking down, not to mention a conflicting figures from the Health Minister that 5,084 had yet to step forward for tests?

Coronavirus - Malaysia Tabligh Religious Member

In the same breath, the state of Johor police chief Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay said recently that of the 2,086 Johor participants who attended the Tabligh gathering, only 1,220 of them had undergone screenings in hospitals. To the remaining 866 attendees, the police chief – like a broken record – merely warned that they would face strict action by the authorities.


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Sorry you won’t be able to defeat the pathogen until a vaccine is available. Even when the vaccine is available, it will take God knows how long to vaccinate everyone. From what I read the best case scenario it will take 18 months. We won’t be able to defeat the novel Coronavirus so is the backdoor govt waiting for zero case to end the lockdown? Let’s hope the backdoor govt has other motive behind the lockdown. Without massive testing & tracing I don’t see the point of the lockdown. South Korea & Taiwan have both proven there’s no way to fight this pandemic except through massive testing & contact tracing.

The bad news is gomen figures, as usual, are always suspect.

Take for instance, it wasn’t all that long ago our gomen got caught with its sarong down for its figures when a UN official looking into poverty detected serious rat infestation in the Gomen’s stats dish of old durian belacan.

Inventing stats, fiddling with stats, cooking stats, making huge messes out of fake figures and faulty data, like poor ability with maths, are recognised tangible skills of Malaysia. Malaysia can create amazing dreams and divine fantasies out of its assets or asses.

Fortunately, as well as unfortunately (for some), there will be yet further of those who would become real figures among our dubious figures of those who would still kick the champagne bucket because the devastating power of the coronavirus is still not fully understood – or respected.

That’s because other than our qualified, unqualified, and disqualified bomohs – and an imported Indian fakir, we have not been blessed with any gomen intelligent, competent, and those reasonably awake enough to handle the adult task of controlling, let alone defeating the coronavirus.

So the good news (for some) is they can have their champagne, Heineken, Carlsberg, date juice, cincau, camel urine, honey, MOH-certified warm water in a paradise struggling to find lots more young virgins to cope with the big influx of “new” migrants from Malaysia.

Those who have not secured their tickets for the winged whorses may take their chance with MAS and Air Asia both looked destined to go down the pan demic.

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