Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Covid-19 may require different approach if virus turns endemic, PM’s health adviser says

Dr Jemilah Mahmood says preventive measures may continue and face masks made the norm in crowded places.

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The prime minister’s special adviser on public health today said that a different approach may be needed to tackle Covid-19 following the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recent warning that the virus is likely to become endemic.

Dr Jemilah Mahmood said this would be so even if the country manages to bring down the number of daily cases and achieve herd immunity.

“Just like dengue, we continue taking measures like guarding hygiene, cleanliness. Maybe in crowded places we may have to take on the culture of wearing masks, and this is quite prevalent in many countries in the East Asia region like Japan and China,” she told Bernama TV’s “Mid-Day Update” programme today.

She said seasonal vaccine shots might also be required to keep Covid-19 at bay, as is being done in Europe to contain the seasonal flu.

On the National Recovery Plan (NRP) tabled by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, she said it laid out the indicators and targets which Malaysia has to meet to bring the pandemic under control.

She added that the NRP is a roadmap for the country to move out of the health crisis created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Every recovery plan is dependent on several factors. (In this case) the primary drivers are public health indicators, capacity of the health system to cope as well as our vaccination rate because we cannot continue to be in a persistent state of lockdown while the economy has to restart and accelerate,” she said

As such, Jemilah said the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK) is crucial to the success of NRP, as both work hand in hand to reach the target of herd immunity through the vaccination of 70% to 80% of the country’s population.

On June 15, Muhyiddin announced the NRP, a four-phase strategy to move the country out of the movement control order and Covid-19 pandemic.

Jemilah agreed with the view of PICK coordinating minister Khairy Jamaluddin that WHO should ask countries to recognise all types of Covid-19 vaccines that are listed by WHO.

“If WHO has recognised, it should be recognised by all the countries in the world. We cannot afford the geopolitics of vaccines. We really need to make sure people are protected,” she added.

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