Too early to relax movement restrictions, says expert
Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman
9 Aug 2021
By Ilona Andrew
KUALA LUMPUR: Infectious disease expert Prof Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman said it is still too early for Malaysia to ease its movement restrictions with the country's Covid-19 situation still not improving.
Although vaccination rates seem to increase, she said relaxing movement restrictions would potentially worsen the situation as the country faces a shortage in its health facilities and can barely accommodate any more Covid-19 patients.
This includes hospitals in Sabah, Penang, Kedah and Melaka, among others.
Instead, she reckoned that what should be done now is to bring down cases in states that have remained in a consistent upward trend.
“Unfortunately, it would be dangerous to reopen, even if our vaccination rate is high right now.
"Right now, we are desperately looking for beds and creating ICUs to keep people alive. So to reopen, even if our vaccination has reached 100 per cent, is a little bit premature," she said.
Adeeba who is also a member of the World Health Organisation (WHO) was speaking during a virtual sharing session, Friday.
According to her, states that are no longer capable to accept Covid-19 in-patients would face greater consequences as the outbreak is expected to continue surging, now that more dangerous variants have been detected.
Easing movement restrictions with the idea of having herd immunity achieved should be taken into account as it is just impossible to completely eliminate the coronavirus, she stated.
With the Delta variants now, it was suggested that people who are fully vaccinated can still be infected and become carriers of the virus.
Adeeba said while vaccination is crucial as it can help prevent serious illnesses from Covid-19, it is also necessary that the people learn to live with it.
On the other hand, she mentioned that lockdown measures will no longer be effective if the main goal of Malaysia is to achieve zero Covid-19 as this would only drive the economical state worse than it already is now.
She emphasised that the practice of preventive measures and initiatives to effective contact tracing measures are keys to curbing the spread of the virus.
"We really need to continue to expand testing in contact tracing and isolating and supporting those who are infected. I think that’s been our number one handicap because we haven’t got an automated system.
"Many things are still manual, there are delays in informing people, they’re positive, there are delays in isolating them, delays on the forward and backward tracing," she stated.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced individuals who are fully vaccinated are entitled to several movement relaxations which includes interdistrict and interstate travel, religious prayers, dine-ins, sports and recreational activities, and domestic tourism.
As of Sunday, 37.5 per cent of the Malaysian population has been fully vaccinated with double doses while Sabah has only achieved 17 per cent.