PUTRAJAYA (May 27): Malaysia is well-prepared to face the worst-case scenario of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.
This is in view of, among others, the country's low occupancy rate of COVID-19 treatment facilities which is currently less than 15%, he told the media at the daily briefing here.
"In case we have an exponential surge in cases, our records show that 80% of our patients are in categories 1 and 2. Patients in these categories can be treated at non-hospital quarantine centres which can be easily set up.
"We have our strategy in place. As I have said before, we always prepare for the worst but we hope for the best. Our ventilators, wards and intensive care units are mainly for categories 3, 4 and 5," said Noor Hisham.
According to him, the Ministry of Health is set to open more laboratories for COVID-19 testing, which will increase the total capacity to more than 30,000 cases per day compared with 25,000 to 27,000 currently.
MoH has prepared some 4,599 beds for COVID-19 patients at about 40 hospitals nationwide, according to the Ministry's data.
Noor Hisham said these hospitals are also equipped with a combined 1,090 ventilators. Currently, less than 1% of COVID-19 patients in Malaysia require ventilator support.
Yesterday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that countries where coronavirus infections are declining could face an "immediate second peak" if they ease measures to halt the outbreak too soon.
Responding to this, Dr Noor Hisham said Malaysia has eased some restrictions under the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) since May 4, but has managed to maintain the number of new cases at a reasonable level.
"Today we have 15 new cases with six being imported cases. This is the first time we recorded new cases involving local transmission in a single digit, despite having eased some restrictions under the CMCO.
"But what is more important is that we need to ensure that this is sustainable. If the public continues to comply with the CMCO, rest assured we can continue to bring down [the number of new cases]," he added.
On the MoH's new ruling that allows COVID-19 patients to be discharged even after testing positive post the 14-day treatment period, Noor Hisham clarified that these only involve those identified to have zero infectivity.
This is in line with a WHO report which stated that infectivity has been found to be zero after a period of 10 days, although the patient may still be tested positive.
"If they do not wish to return home, we won’t place them at hospitals, but maybe at some training institutes or other places that treat asymptomatic patients or those displaying mild symptoms," he said, adding that complete guidelines on such cases will be issued by the MoH soon.