Analysis: October Marks Pivotal Month In Shift Towards Endemic Covid-19

Image Source- The Straits Times
  • Depending on the strength and duration of protection derived from vaccinations and natural immunity, Malaysia’s Ministry of Health hopes to enter a transition phase of “living with the COVID-19 virus" before definitively moving into an endemic phase.

  • Several factors must be considered during the shift of Covid-19 from pandemic status to endemic phase, including not being able to completely prevent the COVID-19 virus, but rather, being able to reduce its impact, as well as managing severe cases with a lower load on the health system.

Analysis: October Marks Pivotal Month In Shift Towards Endemic Covid-19

As COVID-19 infections decrease and more activities resume to pre-pandemic levels, October 2021 is shaping up to be a pivotal month for the country. The percentage of fully vaccinated adults achieving the 90% target and a growing number of teenagers getting the vaccine, the end appears nearer in sight than ever before. 

Interstate travels, the reopening of tourist centres, students returning to universities and schools, and crowds flocking to sporting events are all expected to resume. 

Despite the fact that some teachers refuse to get vaccinated, which is a source of concern for parents, schools must reopen to give kids a morale boost after a prolonged period of studying from home. 

Bearing all this in mind, Malaysians should not celebrate too soon, since it is still unclear if the endemic phase will be achieved by the end of October, and certain variations, particularly the Delta variant, have yet to complete a mutation process, which may put additional lives at risk.

To prevent this situation from arising once more, everyone is urged not to grow complacent and to continue to be cautious and follow the government’s standard operating procedures (SOP). 

This is the hope of the COVID-19 Pandemic Management Special Committee, chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, which will decide on all proposals for endemic phase action after they have been refined at the COVID-19 Ministerial Quartet meeting, led by Senior Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein. 

All of the proposals were first identified and discussed by the National Security Council Director-General Datuk Rodzi Md Saad’s Pandemic Management Technical Working Group. 

Despite being permitted freedom, Assoc Prof Dr Malina Osman, a public health specialist at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), says the community must continue to follow standard operating procedures (SOPs) and preventative measures to minimise the potential of transmission and the development of new clusters.

Source- Straits Times

Living With Covid-19 Virus

Depending on the strength and duration of protection derived from vaccinations and natural immunity, Malaysia’s Ministry of Health hopes to enter a transition phase of “living with the COVID-19 virus" before definitively moving into an endemic phase;  with the number of cases remaining within the expected range and public health facilities remaining unaffected. 

The critical cases rate per 100,000 of the population should be 0.5 for the nation to enter the endemic phase, while the rate as of September 25 was 1.9, falling short of targets set. 

Aside from that, hospital admission rates for categories three to five should be at 5% of overall admissions, down from 10% on September 25, and non-Intensive Care Unit (ICU) hospital bed utilisation should be less than 30%, with ICU bed utilisation at less than 20%. 

The public must continue to follow the updated and simplified SOPs, be responsible, and guarantee that appropriate health care is available at all times throughout the endemic period.

Several factors must be considered during the shift of Covid-19 from pandemic status to endemic phase, including not being able to completely prevent the COVID-19 virus, but rather, being able to reduce its impact, as well as managing severe cases with a lower load on the health system. 

Source- Straits Times

Five Strategies For Transitioning To The Endemic Phase

Meanwhile, the government has outlined five strategies for transitioning to the endemic phase, the first of which involves public health response and vaccination programmes based on the find, test, trace, isolate, and support (FTTIS) approach, vaccination of 70 to 90% of the total population, booster shots, and ensuring good and safe ventilation practises. 

The second approach involves testing and monitoring, which includes the use of self-test kits, near-patient or point-of-care testing (POCT), faster test kits using respirators, and improved surveillance systems. 

The third approach is case management, which will guarantee that hospitals have sufficient bed capacity as well as appropriate care and protection for individuals who are vulnerable. 

The fourth approach is community empowerment, which encourages individuals to conduct self-testing, self-isolation, follow SOPs, be change agents, and build mental resilience by encouraging them to do self-testing, self-isolation, follow SOPs, and be agents of change. 

The fifth approach is border control, which includes the continuation of quarantine rules and SOPs, as well as test-and-release procedures and the use of “green/amber/red" lists. 

Source- Straits Times

Another important aspect to consider before transitioning to the endemic phase is the amount of infections, since infection levels are high during the pandemic phase but low during the endemic phase. 

Enhanced response, including immunisation, increased testing and monitoring, as well as increased readiness to confront future clusters or waves of illnesses, are among the measures that must be taken to accomplish this. 

In addition to providing subsidies for the B40 group, as well as price and quality control, there should be ceiling pricing established for essential medical equipment such as self-test kits to guarantee that they may be affordable and purchased by the general population. 

The virtual COVID-19 Assessment Centre (CAC) will be maintained and extended in terms of case management, while the private sector will be expected to play a larger role in the future. 

Selected hospitals would be designated as COVID-19 hospitals for case management, with at least one COVID-19 hospital each hospital cluster and a minimum of 42 such hospitals nationwide.

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