Friday, June 18, 2021

Positivity Rate Counts, Not Infection Numbers

The Malaysian Medical Association are taking a position that daily Covid numbers don’t really matter. What they're saying is that reduced daily Covid case numbers mean little if the positivity rate remains high. 

FYI, positivity rate refers to the share of tests conducted that return positive results, with a higher rate indicating wider transmission of the disease and pointing towards more cases going undetected. 

MMA president Dr. Subramaniam Muniandy (right), in responding to the National Recovery Plan announced by the backdoor prime minister said yesterday: “In the recovery plan, there are targets to reduce daily cases to below 4,000, 2,000 and 500, but no mention is made of a targeted positivity rate”. 

During a national address on Tuesday, Muhyiddin Yassin had explained that the country’s roadmap to recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic would be navigated across four phases based on three key indicators; the average number of daily cases, the state of the country’s health system, and how many people are fully vaccinated.

Of course, the MMA didn't think much of the plan. They would rather look at the positivity rate and not infection numbers. Methinks, they are correct. 

Data from the MOH’s Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre shows the country’s positivity rate has ranged from 5.67% to 7.89% this month – consistently above the 5% benchmark set by the WHO. 

While vaccines should be the national recovery plan’s “top priority”, they emphasized that there should also be targets set to test the community, more so in hotspot areas across the country. 

Noting the rise in sporadic cases in the country, which he said is an indication that infections are widespread in the community, Subramaniam said increased testing is needed to find and quickly isolate the infected in line with the WHO’s Find, Test, Trace, Isolate and Support system.

It is also worth noting from Muhyiddin's sketchy plan that an exit strategy is glaringly missing. 

Without a comprehensive strategy, we can certainly expect the number of cases to surge and at a faster rate and this will surely be accompanied with SOP fatigue. 

And guess what? National Covid-19 Immunization Program Coordinating Minister Khairy Jamaluddin (left) is finally talking sense. 

He had indicated on Thursday that he would be intentionally avoiding the term “herd immunity” as he expected Covid-19 to become endemic in the country. 

He added that he preferred to use the term “immunize”. He had recognized that vaccines are not a guaranteed solution to the pandemic. Touché! 

Even as the government boast of more jabs are being administered daily, we will not know the extent to which current rates of vaccination and acquired immunity will keep Covid in check.

As I’ve said time and time again, we gotta accept that we have to live with Covid-19. That is becoming a fact of life.

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