Sarawak Covid-19 situation: What’s next?

Graph 1 (Source: Sarawak Health Director).

Advertorial 

VACCINATION
Started on February 26, 2021. Sarawak’s vaccination acceleration plan rolled out in June 2021 when larger supplies of vaccine arrived in Malaysia.

DELTA VARIANT:
The Delta Variant was first reported in Sarawak on July 8, 2021. Most of the reported cases have been in the Southern Zone.


RECOVERY PLAN:
Sarawak qualified to enter the NRP Phase 1 on June 29, 2021 and NRP Phase 2 on July 14, 2021.

Why are the cases in Sarawak increasing?

Graph 1 shows that Sarawak’s vaccination roll out plan leads to an accelerated increase in vaccinations from June onwards, when Sarawak introduced its “Vaccination Acceleration Roll Out” in anticipation of State Election. The acceleration in vaccinations could only begin from June onwards, as the supply of vaccine is controlled by global demand.

Sarawak’s vaccination programme started on February 26, 2021. Six months later, as of Aug 23, 2021, nearly 90 per cent of the eligible population had received at least one dose of vaccine while 85 per cent had received two doses.

The graph shows that by the end of June Sarawak had experienced a downward trend in reported Covid-19 cases. During that time, Sarawak had fulfilled the three indicators allowing Sarawak to enter safely into the National Recovery Plan (NRP) Phase 2 and was preparing to enter into NRP Phase 3 shortly afterwards.

At the end of July 2021, however, there was a sudden spike in Covid-19 cases and the number began to rise again. Even though over 50 per cent of those eligible have received at least one dose of vaccine during the time, the cases have continued to rise.

The Delta Variant

The Delta variant was first reported in Sarawak on the 8th July 2021. To date 519 cases have been detected, concentrated mainly in the Southern Region of Sarawak. The Delta variant is five to eight times more contagious than earlier forms of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The current rapid and large surge in cases is associated with the Delta variant. Data also suggest that while unvaccinated people remain the greatest concern (because the Delta variant might cause more severe illness in unvaccinated persons than previous strains), fully vaccinated people carrying the Delta variant may develop breakthrough infections and potentially spread the virus to others.

Three main factors are causing the rise in Covid-19 cases

It is believed that the rise in Covid-19 cases, especially in the Southern Region in Sarawak, is due to three main factors:
(1) the surging spread of the more infectious and the air borne Delta variant
(2) the opening up of more economic sectors, and
(3) the number of people in Sarawak yet to be vaccinated.

Graph 2 (Source: Sarawak Health Director).

Do the vaccines work?

Yes. Sarawak’s high rate of vaccination has produced a positive outcome. It has reduced the levels of Category 3 (lung infection), Category 4 (lung infection and in-need of oxygen supplementation) and Category 5 cases (lung infection and in-need of ventilator), and has led to a drop in mortality rate.

Cases have been increasing, likely due to the three factors mentioned above. Vaccination has successfully reduced the severity of Covid-19 infections.

At present, 99 per cent of the reported daily cases are asymptomatic (Category 1) or show only mild symptoms (Category 2).

Our critical care beds utilization rate has also reduced from over 70 per cent in June 2021 to below 40 per cent in August 2021.

Graph 2 shows that as the vaccination rate in our community increases, both the number of reported Covid-19 cases requiring hospitalization (under Clinical Category 3, 4 and 5) and the mortality rate from Covid-19 have been reduced significantly.

Conclusion

While the vaccine protects us from getting severely infected, we must understand that we can still be infected by the virus and we can still infect others. Bearing in mind that the recent sudden rise in cases is associated with the spread of the Delta variant, we should be prepared for further mutations of the virus. New mutations may result in more dreadful variants.

Over the past week, Sarawak has been reporting more than a thousand cases daily. If the cases continues to show an increasing trend, our healthcare response and facilities would be overwhelmed – jeopardizing the retrieval, management and contact tracing process.

Therefore, everyone must play their role in adhering to public health measures and continue to use all the preventive strategies available including the use of face mask when indoors and outdoor and in public places, avoiding poorly ventilated spaces and practicing physical distancing. These measures will help stop transmission and curb the spread of the epidemic.

The way forward – A Safer Sarawak

Sarawak’s current vaccination roll out plan calls for complete vaccination by the end of August 2021 for everyone aged 18 and above. That will cover 71 per cent of the total population.

As we move forward, Sarawak will extend vaccination to everyone aged 12 to 17, representing a further 10 per cent of the total population. Once 81 per cent of the total population is inoculated, and if we continue to adhere to public health measures and accept this ‘new normal’, we can cut the chain of viral transmission and save lives.

Those who are eligible and not yet vaccinated, please get yourself vaccinated.

However, we cannot depend on vaccination alone. This is because 25-30 per cent of the people who are being infected every day cannot be vaccinated, either for medical reasons or because they are not yet eligible to receive the vaccine. Therefore we must continue to adhere to the standard operating procedures to protect those who are vulnerable. — DayakDaily

Source: Sarawak Health Director