In light of the Covid19: Quickly Test & Treat / Cepat Uji & Rawat campaign organised by the Malaysian Society of Infection Control and Infectious Diseases (MyICID) in collaboration with the Malaysian Family Medicine Specialists’ Association (FMSA) and the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), MJN e-News was given the opportunity to conduct an email interview with Dr Balachandran A/L S. Krishnan, General Practitioner, Malaysian Medical Association. (MMA).
MJN: What is your forecast for the global SARS-CoV-2 situation, given the emerging variants that are still “infecting” populations; will this (pandemic) truly end?
Dr Balachandran: The SARS-CoV-2 virus is highly unpredictable and constantly evolving, making it extremely difficult to predict when the pandemic will come to an end. Despite hopes that the pandemic would no longer be a global emergency by 2023, a sudden increase in the number of cases and deaths in Beijing end of the year 2022 shocked the world.
While we’ve made progress in mitigating the spread of the virus, it’s still uncertain if and when this pandemic will truly come to an end. However, I believe that we can take steps to minimize the impact of Covid-19 in the long term.
New variants like Delta have led to an increase in cases, but vaccines have helped reduce severity. The pandemic may continue to evolve and become endemic, or it may eventually be brought under control with global efforts. Vaccination plays a crucial role in controlling the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and hopefully will bring an end to the Covid-19 pandemic.
As more and more individuals become vaccinated, it becomes increasingly difficult for the virus to spread throughout the populations, ultimately leading to a reduction in the number of new cases and fatalities.
Vaccination is therefore an essential tool in the fight against Covid-19 and can significantly contribute to the process of bringing an end to the pandemic.
By staying vigilant and adaptable to emerging variants, we can work towards a future where the global impact of Covid-19 is greatly reduced. It’s important to follow public health guidelines and get vaccinated to help reduce the spread of the virus and protect ourselves and our communities.
MJN: Do you agree with other governments that the pandemic restrictions should be lifted? Why or why not?
Dr Balachandran: As for me, the primary concern is the health and well-being of individuals and communities. While I understand the desire to lift pandemic restrictions and resume normal activities, it’s important to consider the potential consequences of such actions.
The Covid-19 virus is highly infectious and has caused significant illness and deaths around the world. We have seen in the past that prematurely lifting restrictions can lead to a resurgence in cases and ultimately prolong the pandemic.
With that being said, decisions regarding the lifting of pandemic restrictions must be made with careful consideration based on a variety of factors, including the level of Covid-19 transmission in a given area, the vaccination rate of the population, and the capacity of the healthcare system to handle new cases.
I also understand the economic and social impacts of prolonged pandemic restrictions. At the same time, the governments and public health officials need to balance the need to control the spread of the virus with the need to allow people to resume their daily activities and support the economy.
The decision to lift restrictions should be based on scientific evidence and data and should be communicated clearly to the public so that people can make informed decisions about their own behaviour. We must continue to monitor the situation closely and adapt our response accordingly, in order to minimise the risk of further transmission of the virus. It is important to note that even if restrictions are lifted, individuals can still take steps to protect themselves and others, such as continuing to wear masks in crowded indoor settings, practicing good hand hygiene, and getting vaccinated when eligible to control the spread of the virus and prevent future outbreaks.
Ultimately, the health and safety of individuals must remain our top priority as we navigate through this pandemic.
MJN: When it comes to Covid-19, how do you think some people’s “carelessness” can endanger others?
Dr Balachandran: The Covid-19 virus spreads through respiratory droplets released when an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes. Carelessness such as not wearing a mask or following public health guidelines increases the risk of spreading the virus and putting others at risk, especially those who are vulnerable or not yet vaccinated.
The consequences of this can be severe and potentially life-threatening. The spread of the virus can also lead to the emergence of new variants. It is essential to recognise that individual actions have a direct impact on the spread of the virus, and everyone has a responsibility to take precautions to protect themselves and others.
This includes following public health guidelines, getting vaccinated when eligible, and staying home when sick. In short, the carelessness of some people can put others in danger when it comes to Covid-19, and it is crucial for everyone to take responsibility and do their part to mitigate the spread of the virus.
MJN: Why is testing and seeking treatment promptly of utmost importance in combatting Covid-19?
Dr Balachandran: Testing and seeking treatment promptly are crucial in controlling the spread of Covid-19. Testing is important because it allows individuals who may have been exposed to the virus to identify whether they are infected or not.
Early detection and isolation help prevent further transmission of the virus. Prompt testing also enables contact tracing and ensures appropriate treatment and care for infected individuals.
Additionally, testing data is important for public health officials to monitor the spread of the virus and inform policy decisions. Moreover, seeking treatment promptly is equally important.
Early treatment can help to prevent the progression of the illness and reduce the risk of complications. Delaying treatment can lead to more severe illness and potentially require more extensive medical intervention, such as hospitalisation or the need for a ventilator.
Overall, both testing and seeking treatment promptly are important for protecting individuals and communities and providing critical data for public health officials to monitor the pandemic. By identifying and treating cases early, we can limit the spread of the virus and reduce the burden on healthcare systems.
MJN: In your expert opinion, is the vaccine the only way to stop the pandemic?
Dr Balachandran: While vaccines alone may not completely stop the pandemic, they are a critical tool for reducing the spread of the virus and ultimately bringing an end to the Covid-19 pandemic. They are a crucial tool in controlling the spread of Covid-19 by reducing the risk of infection, severe illness, hospitalisation, and death. Vaccines can create herd immunity and are important alongside other preventive measures such as mask wearing and testing.
However, vaccine hesitancy and access issues can pose challenges, and ongoing efforts are needed to address these barriers.
MJN: Who are the so-called high-risk groups?
Dr Balachandran: Certain groups of people are at higher risk for severe illness or complications if they contract Covid-19. These high-risk groups include:
- Older adults: People aged 65 and older are at higher risk for severe illness and death from Covid-19. • People with underlying medical conditions: Individuals with underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic lung disease, and weakened immune systems are at higher risk for severe illness and complications from Covid-19.
- Pregnant people: Pregnant individuals may be at higher risk for severe illness from Covid-19, and there is evidence to suggest that Covid-19 infection during pregnancy may increase the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes.
- People with certain disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and developmental disabilities, may be at higher risk for severe illness and complications from Covid-19.
It’s important to note that while these groups are at higher risk for severe illness or complications from Covid-19, anyone can become infected with the virus and experience severe illness or complications. Everyone should take steps to protect themselves and others from the virus, such as getting vaccinated when eligible, wearing masks in crowded indoor settings, practicing good hand hygiene, and following public health guidelines.
MJN: Please share some “practical” tips for avoiding infection with the current SARSCov-2 variants especially among high-risk groups.
Dr Balachandran: Continue to protect yourself and those around you, especially those at high risk of Covid-19, by following these preventive measures:
- Get vaccinated
- Wear a mask
- Practice social distancing
- Wash your hands frequently
- Avoid close contact with sick people
- Consider limiting interactions
- Get yourself tested regularly, especially if you have any symptoms
- Stay at home or isolate yourself if you are sick
- Be vigilant and stay informed about Covid-19 guidelines There is no way to completely eliminate the risk, but following these practical tips can help reduce the risk of contracting Covid-19, including the new variants, especially among high-risk groups. It’s important to remember that these measures work together to help protect ourselves and others around us.
MJN: Lastly, tell us what is the “Covid-19: Quickly Test & Treat”campaign about?
Dr Balachandran: This campaign is to urge the public especially high-risk groups (e.g.: chronic disease patients) to continue protecting themselves and others from Covid-19 by: a) Get the Covid-19 vaccination and booster shot. b) Do Covid-19 test if they have the symptoms c) Seek early treatment, within five days after the onset of the symptoms.