Local Heath Experts Say Active COVID-19 Cases May Rise To 50,000 By Hari Raya

They said social gatherings and events should be deferred for the time being.

Cover image via Reuters via The Straits Times & EY

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Public health expert Dr Malina Osman said that if the current trend of daily COVID-19 cases were to continue, we would see around 50,000 active cases by Hari Raya Aidilfitri, which falls on 12 May

Dr Malina's comment comes after the infectivity rate (Rt) for the virus, or R-naught value, peaked at 1.19 on Sunday 18 April, reported New Straits Times.

It is said to be the highest record to date.

As of this story, Malaysia has 22,014 active COVID-19 cases.

She suggested that social activities such as iftar events and going to parks — activities that require people to take off their masks or have contact with others in public — should be deferred.

"The way I see it is, if we want to at least go visiting (relatives and family members) within the state during Hari Raya, we need to start some self-regulated Movement Control Order (MCO)," she told the daily.

The associate professor in Universiti Putra Malaysia added that packed food should be the norm at open space events

According to her, employers are also advised to monitor workers and restrict gatherings in areas like cafeterias and pantries.

She contended that allowing interstate travel before Hari Raya Aidiladha — which falls on 19 July — could be catastrophic to the health care system because the nation has been struggling with daily cases surpassing 2,000 since 15 April.

Dr Malina is of the opinion that the recent infection spike was linked to the Malaysian social culture of sharing meals together.

Manipal University College Malaysia Community and Occupational Medicine Professor Dr G Jayakumar also agreed with the notion that social gatherings that are centred around dining would exacerbate the COVID-19 transmission in communities.

"Social events, like weddings, buka puasa gatherings, Ramadan buffets, and interstate travel, especially during festive seasons, must be stopped," Dr Jayakumar said.

Dr Jayakumar also mentioned that "Standard operating procedures (SOPs) compliance among the public has been waning recently as pandemic fatigue sets in"

"Malaysians are also frustrated and discontented with the perceived inconsistent enforcement of the SOPs, where hefty fines are issued immediately to laymen for breaching the SOPs, while VIPs get away scot-free," he told New Straits Times. 

He said that government and community callousness toward following the SOPs could lead to a fourth wave of the infection.

If that happened, he believed that it could lead to another national lockdown that is economically unsustainable for the communities.

Dr Jayakumar advised that leaders and policymakers to lead by example and implement the enforcement transparently.

Dr Malina also questioned the apparent double standards in the enforcement of SOPs.

This is especially in cases where hostel students were fined for not wearing their masks in the cafeteria, while more well-known figures were allowed to flout the interstate travel restrictions.

Meanwhile, Health director-general Tan Sri Noor Hisham Abdullah said, "Malaysia must learn from other countries, like India and Brazil, and prevent the situation from happening in our country"

295,000 new cases were reported in India yesterday, 21 April. The country also recorded its highest single-day death toll of 2,000 from the virus on the same day.

Meanwhile, Malaysia recorded 2,875 new positive cases today, 22 April. There were seven new deaths recorded today.

Remember to limit your movement and keep practising physical distancing. Watch the latest update on the COVID-19 situation:

Recently, local authorities expressed concern over the lack of compliance to SOPs at Ramadan bazaars across Malaysia:

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