Emulate Australia, Canada, mass testing MUST start immediately to contain Malaysia’s COVID spread

I fully support all efforts and decisions thus far taken by the Ministry of Health, in our national attempt at flattening Malaysia’s COVID19 curve. The Movement Control Order (MCO) is necessary and appropriate,however it is with regret that we are still seeing Malaysians ignoring the MCO, putting fellow citizens at risk. However there are graver risks than what meets the eye.

We must take cognisance of the scientific fact that there are likely to be a large number of asymptomatic (showing no symptoms) carriers of COVID19 who are, and have been unknowingly infecting others. These could be Malaysians who are working in essential services who have unwittingly and inadvertently been making regular contact with others despite the MCO.

Testing allows infected people- especially those who are asymptomatic- to know that they are infected as People who don’t know they are infected might not stay at home and thereby risk infecting others. Testing is also crucial for an appropriate response to the pandemic. It allows us to understand the spread of the disease and to take evidence-based measures to slow down the spread of the disease. It is now widely recognised that Mass Testing is the key to stopping the spread of COVID19.

In Malaysia, COVID19 Tests are available to whoever wishes to take one; but it will cost around RM600 per sample from 11 companies with labs Nationwide. Unless one is classified as a sporadic case, PUI (Patient Under Investigation), or a contact. (those that have had close contact with an infected individual, is displaying symptoms and has recently been to impacted countries or a cluster incident) you are not eligible to a RM1 government subsidised COVID19 test.

Results as of 20th March 2020

Country, Other Total Cases New Cases Total Deaths New Deaths Total Recovered Active Cases Serious, Critical Tot Cases/1M pop TESTS conducted approx population % population tested
Malaysia 1183 153 8 5 114 1061 26 37 13876 31.6M 0.04391
Canada 1087 13 1 14 1060 1 29 113615 36.5M 0.31127
Australia 1072 144 7 46 1019 2 42 113121 24.6M 0.45984
S. Korea 8799 147 102 8 2612 6085 59 172 316664 51.5M 0.61488

If we were to study Canada and Australia who have similar numbers of total cases, active cases and cases per million population with Malaysia, it is shocking to see that Malaysia has only had 13876 (14661 latest http://www.moh.gov.my/index.php/pages/view/2019-ncov-wuhan) tests carried out. Whereas Canada and Australia have both had almost 10 fold- over 113000 tests done each. Both these countries have been recognised as nations who have done well on their war against COVID19, specifically on flattening the curve.

There also appear to be a certain degree of incongruence between reported figures of number of tests reported on MOH website with some of the reports of five thousand tests per day in the 26 available facilities nationwide. This query is neither hostile, suspicious, nor accusatory. It is a genuine and conscientious request for transparency so we can together fight this war.

With the inhibitive cost of RM600, it is highly unlikely that your average Malaysian would want to be or can afford to be tested. This means that a significant group of likely infected yet asymptomatic carriers of COVID19 could be roaming out there without knowing themselves the risk they pose unto others.

I hereby call on MOH to immediately emulate South Korea, Singapore, UK, Canada, Hong Kong,the Italian City of Vo and many others to embark on COVID19 Mass Testing. The cost must be born by the federal government, we must not let cost be a hindrance to our effort to prevent loss of lives. This is a political decision that must be made immediately to contain the virus from further spreading.

It is the only decision at this juncture, that will stand us a chance in winning our war on COVID19.

Howard Lee Chuan How
DAPSY National Chief & SA for Pasir Pinji
Media statement by Howard Lee Chuan How in Ipoh on Sunday, 22nd March 2020