Covid-19: 32.8 pct of positive cases in Sarawak due to BA.5 subvariant

The BA.5 subvariant accounted for 32.8 per cent or one-third of the COVID-19 cases in Sarawak from June onwards, according to the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) Institute of Health and Community Medicine (IHCM).

The matter was disclosed in a report submitted to State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) chairman Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas here.

UNIMAS IHCM director Prof Dr David Perera said from April 3 to July 13 this year a total of 165 samples obtained statewide had been successfully sequenced, all of which were detected as the B.1.1.529, Omicron Variant of Concern(VOC).

He said from these samples, 121 were detected as multiple minor sub-lineages of BA.2, a single case and first reported of BA.4 case and 43 samples with BA.5.

“While the BA.2 VOC continues to be the predominant detected subvariant over this period of surveillance, a rapid increase in infections of the BA.5 VOC was observed.

“From early June onwards, approximately one third (32.8 per cent) of all detections were of this subvariant (BA.5),” he said.

Dr Perera added this observation in Sarawak was consistent with the global distribution of this highly infectious Omicron VOC which has seen a rapid increase in detection rate in many countries.

“In view of this, the public is strongly advised to be aware of the heightened risk of increase in infection rate in the state.

“Please consider getting a booster dose if you have not done so particularly for individuals with comorbidities and those above 50 years old,” he added. – Bernama


Khairy: Focus is on severity of Covid-19 cases, not numbers

Focus must now shift from the number of Covid-19 cases reported to the severity of cases, says health minister Khairy Jamaluddin.

He said it is now common anywhere in the world for the number of cases reported to be less than the actual number of infections due to more relaxed testing protocols.

“In this situation, we look at proxy indicators. We don’t look at the number of cases but their severity,” he said at a press conference today.

Khairy said that when the country is transitioning to the endemic phase, the focus must be on the severity of the cases, which can be seen through the number of deaths and hospital admissions.

He said Malaysia will see increases and drops in the number of new cases due to waves of infections from time to time.

He pointed out that the country’s baseline number of cases has increased due to the Omicron BA.5 variant but the situation is under control as long as the number of deaths and hospital admissions remain low.

Khairy also said that compared to countries like Singapore that face a large Omicron BA.5 wave, Malaysia is facing a small but prolonged wave.

He urged the public to follow the SOPs and report their Covid-19 test results via the MySejahtera application.

“When results are reported, this makes it easier for the health ministry to monitor the actual situation in the community, aside from also looking at the number of deaths and hospitalisations,” he said.

Yesterday, FMT reported that the number of new Covid-19 cases increased from 28,339 to 28,554, or 0.8%, last week from the week before.

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, in his update for the week ending Aug 6, said the number of patients admitted to public hospitals and quarantine centres remained unchanged.

The number of hospital admissions per population of 100,000 compared with the preceding week also remained unchanged.

Overall bed occupancy for non-critical beds rose by 2% while intensive care unit (ICU) beds remained unchanged at 14%. FMT


Only 42.3% of children in Malaysia fully vaccinated against Covid-19

A total of 1.76 million or 49.8% of children aged between five and 11 in the country have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine as of Tuesday (Aug 2), said Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali.

He said of the total, 1.5 million or 42.3% of the population have completed the vaccination while 1,030 children in the moderate to severe immunocompromised category within the same age range have received the third dose.

However, Dr Noor Azmi said the percentage is still low compared to the number of vaccination facilities provided for that group.

“It’s been almost six months since we launched the Covid-19 vaccine programme for children, the staff are doing a good job, the response and cooperation from state governments are also good, the response from private clinics is also encouraging.

“But the arms are not there,” he said when replying to a question from Wong Chen (PH-Subang) in the Dewan Rakyat on Wednesday.

Dr Noor Azmi said the Health Ministry (MOH) is still continuing its efforts to encourage parents to get their children vaccinated including through electronic and social media.

To date, he said there are still 926 private premises that provide vaccination facilities and 14 off-site vaccination centres.

Meanwhile, for children who missed their second dose of the vaccine, he said parents can contact the nearest health clinic to make an appointment for the second dose. – The Edge Markets


Shortage of nurses hurting care centres

When the Covid-19 virus started to spread in March 2020, nurses were overworked without rest while new ones were hired to accommodate the rising numbers of patients in government hospitals.

However, not many are aware that this has an indirect impact on senior citizens, especially those who are living in care centres and old folk homes.

During the pandemic, some senior citizens had to battle with the virus, including those living in care homes. Some were placed under quarantine or sent to hospital for treatment. Sadly, most did not survive.

Centres had to deal with not only the spread of the virus and the prevention of possible outbreaks in their premise, but also a shortage of nurses to care for the residents.

“We need about 6,000 caregivers and nurses in all of our centres nationwide,” said Association for Residential Aged Care Operators of Malaysia (Agecope) president Delren T. Douglas.

Delren said prior to enforcement of the MCO in March 2020, (graduate) nurses were put on standby or “pending replacement” status while waiting for an opening or position at a government hospital.

The “pending replacement” period is between six months and a year, and once there are places available, nurses would get to work in a hospital.

“It’s the norm. This is one of the reasons the government decided to close down nursing colleges, as there were a high number of nurses waiting for placement in government hospitals,” explained Delren.

While waiting for placement, (graduate) nurses would work with nursing homes and old folk centres, and that solved the problem of a lack of nurses at such facilities.

When the nurses get employed in a hospital, a new batch of graduate nurses would replace them.

But this was not the case when Covid struck two years ago.

There was a rise in the number of infected patients at hospitals, and “pending placement” nurses were sent to work at hospitals.

Delren said some others were offered jobs on a contract basis, leaving many centres without any nurses during the two-year MCO period.

The shortage is still felt even today.

“We have a lack of nurses nationwide. Currently, less than 3,000 nurses graduate in a year and the bulk of them are taken by hospitals overseas, while the remaining are hired by private hospitals,” he said.

At times, hospitals abroad sponsor the education or give scholarships to the nurses, which means they are bound.

The number of the remaining graduates is not sufficient to fill the void at assisted living centres for the aged.

Referring to statistics that Malaysians aged 60 and above would reach 15.3% of the population by 2030, Delren said we should not wait until then to employ the required number of nurses.

Mindful of the fact that there are only eight years before 2030, Delren proposed reopening nursing colleges to resolve the shortage.

“Closing down nursing colleges makes it difficult for students to study the course,” said Delren, who operates Pusat Jagaan Orang Tua dan OKU Dzenith Homes.

He also said nursing course entry requirements were increased from three SPM credits to five.

“If a student has five credits, they would normally opt for other courses and not nursing,” he said, adding that there was a lack of caregivers as well.

Delren suggested that in the meantime, the government allow unemployed locals to work in the nursing home sector or subsidise training programmes offered by colleges or universities to allow them to study.

Although there are short courses for caregivers, there is currently no proper standardised syllabus for caregivers nationwide and such courses are expensive for unemployed or school dropouts.

He said as the position falls under the category of “dirty” and “demanding” jobs, locals would not want to do it.

Even if they do join, they would most likely be school drop-outs with no proper training.

“Not many people have the patience to take care of other people’s parents in nursing homes,” he said, and suggested allowing foreign workers to be hired for a stipulated period, with a working permit of one of two years given just to fill the gap until a new batch of nurses graduate.

Delren said right now, no permits are given to foreign workers to work at homes for senior citizens or any care centre.

According to him, some owners of such facilities have resorted to merging two care centres into one due to the lack of adequate staff such as nurses or caregivers, while others had to serve as workers at their own centres to ease the situation. The Sun


No need to reopen mega PPVs, say health experts

Two health experts have advised against the reopening of mega vaccination centres (PPVs) despite the increase in Covid-19 cases and the emergence of a new variant Omicron BA.5, which is more infectious.

Malaysian Medical Association president Dr Koh Kar Chai said Putrajaya did not need to reopen mega PPVs as many private general practitioners were still operating at low capacity.

“Therefore, they are still able to handle the increasing number of Covid-19 cases,” he told FMT.

Koh noted the importance of booster doses in the fight against Covid-19, saying Malaysia had achieved almost complete coverage of the first booster dose, especially among adults. However, he said, many were still hesitant to take the second booster dose

Monash University Malaysia’s public health researcher Mark Cheong said there was no need to reopen the PPVs as it would involve high costs and cause crowds.

“If mega PPVs are reopened, the public will be more vulnerable to the risk of infection,” he told FMT.

“The government should work with community primary healthcare providers so that booster doses are easily available in community clinics and pharmacies.”

Cheong said the government needed to display all information clearly and consistently on where booster shots were available, the fees involved and the type of vaccines, especially through social networking platforms.

Previously, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said seven million people had yet to take their booster dose and advised them to do so immediately.

“If mega PPVs are reopened, the public will be more vulnerable to the risk of infection,” he told FMT.

“The government should work with community primary healthcare providers so that booster doses are easily available in community clinics and pharmacies.”

Cheong said the government needed to display all information clearly and consistently on where booster shots were available, the fees involved and the type of vaccines, especially through social networking platforms.

Previously, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said seven million people had yet to take their booster dose and advised them to do so immediately.

Asked if there was a plan to reopen PPVs, he said it was up to the health ministry. FMT


Get your booster shots, PM tells 7mil who missed out

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob today advised the seven million Malaysians who have yet to receive their booster shot against Covid-19 to do so immediately following the rise in the number of new cases.

He said although the booster dose is not mandatory, it is still vital not only in view of the uptrend in new cases, but also to help fight new variants of the virus, especially the Omicron BA.5 variant.

“It is not mandatory, but I would like to advise those who have yet to take the booster dose to immediately take it to protect themselves from infection. If they are having the symptoms, go see a doctor,” he said.

Ismail, who is also the Bera MP, was speaking to reporters after the Korban Perdana programme and witnessing the sacrificial rites in conjunction with Aidiladha at Darul Fikri Mosque in Bera.

Asked if there were plans to reopen large-scale vaccination centres to facilitate those who have yet to take the booster dose, he said it is up to the health ministry.

Ismail also said the government has no plan to close the economic sectors despite the increase in the number of new cases.

“Life will go on as usual, but we need to take proactive measures to protect ourselves and our families, including taking the booster dose,” he said. – FMT


Almost 1.3 million children in Malaysia fully vaccinated

A total of 1,299,348 children aged five to 11, or 36.6 per cent of the child population in the country have been fully vaccinated under the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme for Children (PICKids), as of yesterday.

According to the COVIDNOW portal, a total of 1,737,987 children, or 49 per cent of the group received at least one dose of the vaccine.

For adolescents aged 12 to 17, a total of 2,911,081 individuals, or 93.6 per cent of the group received two doses of vaccine, while 3,001,413 or 96.5 per cent of them received at least one dose of the vaccine.

A total of 16,129,557 individuals or 68.6 per cent of the adult population in the country have taken their booster dose, while 23,004,677 or 97.8 per cent have completed two doses and 23,282,208 or 99 per cent have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Yesterday, a total of 6,772 doses of COVID-19 vaccine were administered with 538 as the first doses, 5,016 as second doses, and 1,218 booster doses, bringing the cumulative number of vaccine doses dispensed under the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK) to 71,151,473.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry’s GitHub portal reported a total of 2,093 new COVID-19 positive cases yesterday while one death each was recorded in Selangor, Penang, and Kedah. – Bernama


Covid-19: Evusheld antibody treatment soon

The Ministry of Health (MOH) will start administering treatment with the monoclonal antibody drugs Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab (EVUSHELD) in the near future to ensure that high-risk groups continue to be protected from COVID-19 infection.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said that currently the EVUSHELD antibody drugs would only be administered in government hospitals, and they could be used as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for those who were not yet infected with COVID19 but were at high risk of becoming infected.

“Studies show that the EVUSHELD antibody drugs can protect recipients against COVID-19 infection for a period of six months after injection,” he said in a statement, today.

Khairy explained that the method of administering the antibody drugs was through two consecutive intramuscular injections of Tixagevimab and Cilgavimab.

He said for immunocompromised patients who had received the COVID-19 vaccine, EVUSHELD should be given at least two weeks after vaccination.

Commenting further, Khairy said the assessment of the patient’s eligibility to receive the antibody medication would be done by the treating physician.

Among the selection criteria were those aged 12 and above; weighing more than 40kg and are among the moderate to severe Immunocompromised group (taking into account the immune response of this group to COVID-19 vaccination which is unlikely to reach a satisfactory level of immunity).

In addition, another criterion was individuals who were unable to take the vaccine completely due to medical reasons or had a history of severe reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Meanwhile, Khairy said that treatment using the antiviral drug Paxlovid to treat COVID-19 patients would be extended to selected private health facilities in the near future, to ensure better access to patients.

He added that the distribution of Paxlovid medicine to patients in private health facilities is free of charge, but patients are still subject to consultation service charges and other related charges determined by the private health facility.

The use of antiviral drug Paxlovid, which has been implemented at MOH health facilities since April 15, is the first oral antiviral drug in Malaysia to treat COVID-19 patients with mild to moderate symptoms (categories two and three).

In the meantime, he said the priority of Paxlovid treatment was to the high-risk group of COVID-19 patients.

“As of June 5, 2022, a total of 1,364 patients were given Paxlovid treatment and have fully recovered, and no serious side effects have been reported. This treatment has proven to be safe and effective, and can reduce the severe effects of infection and mortality of COVID-19 patients,” he said.

Khairy said that the MOH believed and was confident that Malaysia was now on the best track to go through the transition to endemic phase effectively and safely, due to the ever-improving medications and treatment methods. – Bernama


Over 22.86 million of adult population fully vaccinated

A total of 22,872,297 individuals or 97.7 per cent of the adult population in the country have completed the COVID-19 vaccination as of Wednesday.

Based on the Health Ministry’s COVIDNOW portal, a total of 23,160,259 individuals or 98.9 per cent of the group have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

For the adolescent population aged between 12 and 17, a total of 2,761,997 individuals or 87.8 per cent have completed the vaccination, while 2,852,677 individuals or 90.7 per cent of the group have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

A total of 245,326 doses of the vaccine were administered yesterday, with 2,747 of them as first dose, 3,859 as second dose and 238,720 as booster doses.

This brings to a total of 58,554,303 doses, including 7,107,613 in booster doses, having been dispensed under the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme as of yesterday.

Meanwhile, according to the ministry’s GitHub portal, a total of 18 deaths were recorded yesterday, with three cases each reported in Pahang, Perak and Selangor.

Kedah, Melaka and the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur recorded two deaths each, while Kelantan, Sabah and Terengganu with one death each. – Bernama


MOH: Booster dose given according to current developments on COVID-19

The administration of the COVID-19 booster vaccine is based on current developments in relation to the effectiveness of vaccines and challenges arising from the emergence of new variants of the virus, the Health Ministry (MOH) said today.

It said the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme for the first and second doses was still actively implemented on Sept 20, 2021, with the rate of fully vaccinated adults then being at 79.6 per cent and still short of the 90 per cent target.

According to MOH, interstate travel was still not allowed and travel into and out of the country was tightly controlled then, apart from the fact that the comprehensive administering of the booster dose had yet to begin in September 2021.

“The administration (of booster dose) was implemented in stages, with priority then given to vulnerable groups comprising senior citizens, people with comorbidities and those exposed to risk of infection.

“Only after the majority of these groups had received the booster (dose) was the booster vaccination opened to the eligible general population,” MOH said in a statement on its Facebook page tonight.

It was clarifying a viral video on Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin talking about the third dose at a press conference after inspecting the COVID-19 screening services at KLIA on Sept 20, 2021.

Khairy had said the booster dose at that time needed to be given to those aged 60 and above, and people with comorbidities or immunocompromised, while healthy individuals were not encouraged to take the jab.

MOH said countries like the United Kingdom, the United States, Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore also offered the booster dose to their adult populations. – Bernama