Sunday, October 24, 2021

Look at all numbers, not just some, health experts say on comparisons with India

But while Malaysia is doing comparatively well for now in its Covid-19 battle, they warn that the healthcare system could one day reach breaking point.

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Experts have cautioned against the use of data showing that Malaysia has overtaken India in terms of weekly confirmed Covid-19 cases per million people in order to judge the country’s healthcare system, saying other factors need to be taken into consideration as well.

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, Dr Sanjay Rampal, an epidemiologist and public health expert at Universiti Malaya, said Malaysia’s fatality rate, for example, is very low.

He said this suggests that the healthcare system has been able to handle Covid-19 cases in the country.

However, he said it is difficult to tell how the recent spike in infections will affect the death rate due to Covid-19.

“I would say that the data speaks for itself, but one should note the assumptions made in the analysis,” he added.

The data in question was sourced from the the Covid-19 data repository by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University and compiled by Our World in Data.

“I would say that the data speaks for itself, but one should note the assumptions made in the analysis.”

Sanjay said Malaysia’s high position in the ranking could also be due to the large number of tests carried out, noting that the country has the seventh highest number of daily Covid-19 tests per 1,000 people and a test positivity ratio of 6.4% as of May 20, meaning that it has been able to test more of its population than other countries on the list.

“The recent rise in test positivity ratio suggests the possibility that we may be missing out on a higher number of cases compared to previous months,” he added.

His analysis was based on data from 43 countries chosen due to their population size being either similar to or larger than Malaysia’s.

He said even with a high ranking for confirmed Covid-19 cases, Malaysia has the lowest reported case fatality rate of 0.44% and is ranked 15th for new confirmed Covid-19 deaths per million people at 1.53 per one million.

Covid-19 data Jan 1 to May 27, 2021
A chart showing the trend of Covid-19 cases since January 2021, with India far ahead of other Asian countries. Experts have cautioned against misleading conclusions from available data on the virus.

However, he added that the Covid-19 deaths per million is difficult to interpret due to the high variations of test positivity rate among the different countries.

Dr Kuljit Singh, president of the Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia, agreed that the data compiled by Our World in Data should not be the basis on which conclusions about the situation in the country are made.

He said many other aspects need to be taken into consideration for a full understanding of Malaysia’s ability to handle the current Covid-19 wave.

“We cannot say we are as bad as India.”

These include the socioeconomic situation, accessibility of healthcare and the level of development between countries like Malaysia and India.

“When you compare per million, yes, we might be on top but in other dynamics we are still quite good comparatively speaking,” Kuljit said.

“We cannot say we are as bad as India.”

But while this may be the case for now, he cautioned that Malaysia could one day reach the breaking point.

To prevent this from happening, he said, healthcare operations need to be given a boost.

“The data is still a very strong warning that if we do not take it seriously, it’s not impossible that we will reach that level. No healthcare system in the world can sustain itself if the numbers don’t go down.

“The bubble can burst,” he said. “We are almost at bursting level.”

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