Health DG warns of exponential surge of COVID-19 cases in June if Malaysians do not comply with SOP

MoH says COVID-19 infection rate will rise again if people do not comply with SOP

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KUALA LUMPUR (May 13): The Ministry of Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has warned that Malaysia may see an exponential surge of COVID-19 infections in mid-June if Malaysians do not comply with the standard operating procedures (SOP) under the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO).

Noor Hisham explained that the projection is based on the case modelling prepared by the National Institute of Health (NIH) that predicts the outcomes of COVID-19 cases for the next two to four weeks, based on Malaysians' adherence to social distancing rules today.

"Under CMCO, the Government has loosened the restrictions for Malaysians to go out, but if we go out, we must comply with the SOP. If we don't, we may see an exponential surge of cases that is expected to happen in mid-June.

"But if Malaysians work together and collectively practise social responsibility and social discipline by complying with the SOP, we can reduce the R0 further and reduce [the number of new] cases to one figure," he said today during the Ministry's daily COVID-19 press briefing today.

R0, pronounced 'R naught', refers to the mathematical term that quantifies the infection rate of the coronavirus. Before the MCO, Malaysia's R0 was 3.55, Dr Noor Hisham said, which meant that each positive case could go on to infect 3.55 people.

After almost two months under movement restrictions, the R0 of COVID-19 in Malaysia has been brought down to 0.3.

"So now we have to get the cooperation from everyone so that we can keep the R0 at less than 0.3," Noor Hisham added.

Meanwhile, Noor Hisham clarified that the permission to allow gatherings of a maximum of 20 people under CMCO is actually a relative number.

This means that gatherings of up to 20 people are only allowed if the gathering can still abide by social distancing rules.

"We have discussed the number 20, and the number 20 is relative. So what is important is the compliance with the SOP. If there are 20 people in a small, confined space, then there would be no social distancing. There needs to be social distancing of at least one meter [from each other]," he said.

Malaysia, which reported 16 new infections yesterday - its lowest in 2 months - saw its new daily cases jump to 37 today. This brought the total infections in the country to 6,779.

Two new deaths were recorded, pushing the death toll to 111, while 5,281 patients have recovered.