Wednesday, January 19, 2022

How Malaysia ranks globally as WHO warns of worldwide spike in Covid cases

Experts warn of a surge in cases across the world caused by new variants.

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Malaysia sits somewhere in the middle of a list of Asian countries ranked according to the number of deaths proportionate to their populations despite the recent surge in casualties from Covid-19 which has taken more than 6,000 lives in the country so far.

Data compiled by Worldometer, a globally trusted source of statistics referred to by governments and international media organisations, placed Malaysia at 26th position out of 49 countries, measuring death rates per million population.

The list also shows that Malaysia’s death toll so far is still lower than that of countries with far smaller populations such as Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Azerbaijan, or those with populations more or less the same size of Malaysia’s such as Saudi Arabia and Nepal.

However, the recent spike in deaths from the pandemic could see Malaysia pushed further up the list.

On the global level, Malaysia is also ranked somewhere in the middle, at 119th spot out of 222 countries in terms of Covid-19 deaths per million, a list topped by Peru, Hungary and Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Peru, whose population is 32.5 million, has recorded more than 194,000 deaths, followed by Hungary where some 30,000 people out of a population of 10 million have died.

Canada, another country with a population more or less the size of Malaysia’s, has recorded more than 26,000 deaths since the pandemic began, four times more than Malaysia’s total death toll.

“But with almost half of the people in Canada having been vaccinated, the number of deaths there has been drastically reduced to less than 10,” a health ministry official who declined to be named told MalaysiaNow.

“The hope is still in achieving herd immunity, where data worldwide has shown a sharp drop in daily casualties in countries where vaccination has been successful.

“As such, while our situation from a statistical point of view is still not as bad as other countries before the vaccination programme, we cannot be complacent. Much has to do with individual cautions,” the official added.

Daily cases and deaths from Covid-19 in the country have continued to spike even after weeks of various stages of lockdown under the movement control order, with some Malaysians taking to social media to express fears that the country is fighting a losing battle against the pandemic.

Yesterday, another record high of 9,353 new cases was reported, with 87 deaths taking the death toll so far to 6,067.

The bulk of the cases have been recorded in the Klang Valley, with Selangor frequently accounting for about half of the total cases nationwide, in what health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has attributed to mass screenings.

“The hope is still in achieving herd immunity, where data worldwide has shown a sharp drop in daily casualties in countries where vaccination has been successful.”

But the World Health Organization (WHO) said the increase in cases is a global trend.

“We’re tracking this virus circulation all over the world and we are seeing sharp increases in far too many countries right now,” said WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead Maria Van Kerkhove earlier this week.

Despite leading the global immunisation drive, Europe saw a 33% increase in new cases last week.

The UK, where more than half of the population has been fully vaccinated, reported 32,367 new cases yesterday and 34 deaths, the most since January.

Meanwhile, there has been a 8.6% increase in Southeast Asia, where Indonesia is currently seeing daily deaths of about 1,000 based on officially available data.

Van Kerkhove said among factors behind the global spike was increased social mobility, as well as the unfair distribution of vaccines.

“We know that the social mixing, the social mobility of people is increasing around the world. These events around the world drive transmission because you bring people together if the right interventions are not in place.”

WHO has also warned that high vaccination rates could give a false sense of safety against the pandemic which has so far killed over four million people and ravaged economies worldwide due to frequent restrictions on daily lives.

It also cautioned countries with high vaccination rates which are thinking of reopening, saying the recent spikes caused by the Delta variant are a cause for concern.

“This is not a flat curve, this is an increasing curve. Making assumptions that transmission will not increase because we’re opening up, because of vaccines, is a false assumption. Transmission will increase when you open up,” Dr Mike Ryan, who heads WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said recently.

Noor Hisham meanwhile remained optimistic of better days ahead in Malaysia, saying cases will stabilise and decline in the next one to two weeks, while pinning hope on the vaccination programme.

“I am confident that with better movement control methods, we will see a more stable total number of cases as well as a drop within a week or two. At the same time, the vaccination process must be expedited,” he told Bernama last night.

Some 11 million people have received at least one dose of vaccine so far under Malaysia’s Covid-19 immunisation drive, with the goal of achieving herd immunity by December well on target.

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