Increase testing during infections’ surge

Dr Kelvin Yii

KUCHING: The Health Ministry has been urged to increase its Covid-19 testing capacity and not limit tests to only those with symptoms.

Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii said this was particularly crucial amidst the spike in cases nationwide as pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic cases could potentially spread the virus.

“While other countries go for mass testing during lockdowns, Malaysia seems to take the opposite approach.

“This is contrary to call by many health experts to ramp up testing especially during a period of lockdown in order to properly determine the real disease burden of the country.

“While more testing can yield more cases, that can give us a clearer picture of the situation and allows us to react quickly to isolate them thus decreasing the risk of them infecting others as well,” Dr Yii said in a Facebook post.

He was responding to Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah who was reported by online portal CodeBlue to have issued the directive along with imposing home quarantine for all close contacts of positive Covid-19 cases if suitable. 

Dr Yii pointed out that when insufficient tests are done, the risk lies with asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic individuals who may not know they may be infected.

“Because they can’t get tested, it may give them a false sense of security, increasing risk of them being negligent with the isolation orders and thus infecting others as well in their own community.”

The MP said even when close contacts were given home quarantine order, without testing, it would lead to higher chances of them flouting the quarantine.

“This also increases the risk of us missing out on possible super spreaders that may not show symptoms in the first place.

“The bigger issue is how the government seems to be ‘moving goal posts’ when it comes to evaluating the disease burden or even effectiveness of our approach against Covid-19.

“That is why I urge the Ministry of Health to be transparent on their new approach and explain to the public the justification of such change,” he said.