MMA: Allow Travel Only When Hospitals Are Half Full

This article first appeared on Free Malaysia Today

Summary
  • The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has urged Putrajaya to hold back on reopening state borders until admission rates at hospital wards and intensive care units have dropped further.
  • MMA’s President Dr Koh Kar Chai also stated that those who failed to develop sufficient immune system responses from their two Covid-19 jabs should get their third dose first before traveling outstation.

MMA: Allow Travel Only When Hospitals Are Half Full

The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has urged Putrajaya to hold back on reopening state borders until admission rates at hospital wards and intensive care units have dropped further.

MMA president Dr Koh Kar Chai said the hospitalisation rate in each specific state and federal territory also needed to be taken into account by the government, on top of the vaccination rates. He said the threshold of 90% of adults being fully vaccinated may seem reasonable, but the number of undocumented migrants must also be taken into account for a more accurate figure.

“We should wait until hospitalisation and ICU admission rates dip further and more significantly, to about 50% usage. Interstate travel can then be allowed between states with low hospitalisation rates,” he told FMT. Koh agreed with health minister Khairy Jamaluddin’s remarks that interstate travel in itself was not the issue, but the problem was of people congregating and throwing safety protocols out the window.

He said many people would seek to return to their hometowns and gatherings with loved ones could be joined by unvaccinated persons. Masks would usually come off. “This can’t be controlled by the authorities. There must be clear SOPs and the people must responsibly observe them to the letter,” he said.

“It should also be noted that many experts have warned of a surge in cases in countries entering the endemic phase. We are now seeing a rise in cases in Singapore, which has a high vaccination rate. Malaysia must be well prepared for this possibility.

Koh said those who failed to develop sufficient immune system responses from their two Covid-19 jabs should get their third doses first before travelling outstation. The government has announced that interstate travel and tourism activities will be allowed to resume once 90% of the adult population has been fully vaccinated. The 90% figure represents only 60% of the total population, Khairy said.

Former health minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said the government should start preparing healthcare facilities for a possible incoming surge and to be preemptive with a robust pandemic response plan rather than being reactive.

“We must place special attention to the high-risk and to children, the latter of whom those aged 12 to 17 have just started to get inoculated. Cases among children have increased by 33-fold in 2021 (400,000) as compared to 2020 (13,000),” he told FMT.

Dulkefly also questioned the accuracy of the 90% threshold figure, as the health ministry was using population figures based on the 2010 census. The migrant and refugee population must also be taken into account, he said.

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