Health experts warn of possible 4th COVID-19 wave

Health experts warn of possible 4th COVID-19 wave

In most countries that have reached a 90% vaccination rate, the number of Covid-19 cases will see a downward trend.

However, there is a return of cases in most instances in a U-shaped curve, said Penang Hospital infectious disease consultant Datuk Dr Chow Ting Soo.

“This is because of the emergence of stronger variants and variants that are more highly transmissible.

“Besides, immunity conferred by the vaccine will wane after three to six months, which means that even post-vaccination, breakthrough infections are anticipated and expected.

“This is what we are preparing to face as the re-emergence of cases is expected or the so-called fourth wave,” he added.

Dr Chow said if this were to happen, there was worry that the healthcare system could collapse and possibly impact the economy – which is why booster shots are necessary.

“For those who are more than 40 years old and those above 18 with comorbidities, there is a need for them to go for booster shots,” he added.

Dr Chow, also Penang state infection control coordinator, said these jabs were essential to flatten the curve, slow the rate and keep the healthcare system from collapsing.

Virologist Dr Kumitaa Theva Das said if the fourth wave were to kick in, there would be another surge in death and hospitalisation rates.

“In Europe, the spike in cases has primarily occurred among the elderly (who received their vaccine shots much earlier in the year) and among kids who are not eligible for inoculation,” she said, adding that they did not want this to occur in Malaysia.

“The immediate concern is how much longer can the healthcare system cope if there is an increase in Covid-19 cases.

“When we saw record-high cases in the middle of the year, many hospitals were pushed to the brink, and we don’t want to see that happening again.

“According to data on CovidNow, there has been an increase in deaths in Kedah, Melaka, Penang, Negri Sembilan and Terengganu in the past two weeks.

“There has also been an increase in hospitalisation in Johor, Kelantan, Pahang and Penang, and an increase in cases in Kedah, Kelantan and Melaka.

“With cases rising in many states, it is important to remember to practise the SOP (standard operating procedure),” added Kumitaa.

Universiti Sains Malaysia Institute for Research in Molecular Medicine lecturer Assoc Prof Dr Venugopal Balakrishnan said if a Covid-19 wave were to occur, more infections from variants of concern such as the Delta strain and others might occur.

“We will see a rise in the number of cases. This situation may end up in another movement control order or targeted MCO.

“When there is an increase in cases, there will be consequences such as hospital beds being fully utilised and an increase in ICU (intensive care unit) usage, which might lead to certain states or districts reverting to lower phases of the National Recovery Plan.

“The economy will also be affected,” he said.

Dr Venugopal added that Malaysia had undergone three Covid-19 waves.

The first wave started when the first case was reported on Jan 25 last year, but the number of cases subsequently went down.

The second wave started with the Sri Petaling cluster that saw the first MCO being implemented on March 18, 2020.

The MCO brought the number of Covid-19 cases down gradually and on June 10, the recovery MCO was implemented.

The third wave kicked in on Sept 8, 2020, due mainly to the Sabah election and Tembok cluster.

“Until now, the government is still containing the third wave by vaccination and ensuring that SOP are adhered to.

“However, if the country enters the fourth wave, we will see a surge in the number of cases.

“A few countries like Germany, Russia and Austria are now facing a fourth wave with the surge of cases.

“This is mainly due to the relaxation in SOP (masks not being compulsory and others) and low vaccination rate,” Dr Venugopal said. - The star