Calls for mass screening

PETALING JAYA: Selangor’s mass community testing in all its districts has prompted calls for similar initiatives in other states.

Malaysia-Singapore Workers Task Force president Dayalan Sreebalan proposed that such an exercise be held in Johor.

“Lately, we have been hearing about community clusters being detected at several places around the state. This is a clear sign that a drastic move has to be taken.

“The state government needs to act fast to stop the spread of the disease, as we may have silent carriers or asymptomatic cases that could unknowingly spread the disease.

“We have no time to waste, ” he said.

Dayalan urged the Johor government to prepare for a big wave of Covid-19 cases here and ensure that its hospitals and other medical facilities can cope.

“The government must be transparent and inform the people of the situation in hospitals here, including whether the state has run out of beds for patients, ” he added.

Johor Doctors Association founder and president Dr Ng Kim Fong said that mass testing would be a useful initiative.

“It will definitely help to control the spread of the disease, especially when it comes to sporadic cases, ” he said.

“However, the most important thing is for the public to continue adhering to the standard operating procedure.

“Although this has been said over and over again, I cannot stress enough the importance of doing so.”

Dr Ng urged people to register for their Covid-19 vaccination as soon as possible, adding that the government should also speed up its vaccine rollout.

In a statement on Sunday, state Health and Environment Committee chairman R. Vidyananthan said that intensive care unit usage in hospitals around three districts in Johor had surpassed 70%.

He said that the districts – Johor Baru, Kulai and Kota Tinggi – had been placed under the movement control order since last Friday due to a spike in sporadic cases within the community.

He noted that as at Saturday, there were 58 active clusters in Johor.

Last October, Qingdao city in China tested its population of nine million people for Covid-19 over five days.

This came about after the emergence of a dozen cases linked to a hospital treating Covid-19 patients arriving from abroad.

Prior to that, the 11 million people of Wuhan were also tested.

Selangor began screening people for free in a mass screening that started on May 8 and which is expected to end on June 10, using rapid antigen test kits.

The mass screening came about as “silent carriers” who are unaware they had the virus were believed to have led to the rise of Covid-19 cases in the state.

Medical Practitioners Coalition Association of Malaysia president Dr Raj Kumar Maharajah said mass testing is important for people who cannot afford it or are unsure of where to go to get screened.

“By this, we can encourage more people to come forward, detect the positive cases, isolate them, trace their contacts, and take appropriate action and treatment, ” he said.

He noted that the Health Ministry may not have enough manpower to run mass screenings in high-risk states.

However, Dr Raj Kumar said the estimated 7,000 general practitioners throughout the country are ready to assist.

On Sunday, Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow said the state government would consider having mass screening for residents while also focusing on speeding up the vaccination process.

“This is something we have highlighted in the early days when we tested foreign workers for Covid-19 last year.

“Penang has the resources, we will just have to mobilise the private sector to collaborate with us for the use of their labs, ” he told reporters.

“Right now, we are focusing on getting Penangites vaccinated, but mass screening is still necessary.”

Penang Health Committee chairman Dr Norlela Ariffin said the mass testing results would only be valid for three days, after which the person has to be tested again.

“The only way is for these people, who are being tested, to stay at home until their results are out, ” she said.

“Even after their results are out, if they have been exposed to someone with Covid-19, it is best to self-quarantine.”

She added that after the testing, if a person goes out and does not follow SOP, then the person could be infected as well.

“It is best that you take the initiative to stay at home and quarantine yourself if you know someone who is Covid-19 positive, ” she said.

On May 14 last year, Penang held a mass screening of foreign workers.