Anwar urges Putrajaya to ramp up Covid-19 testing, claims case numbers being misrepresented

·2-min read
Healthcare workers in protective suits are seen conducting Covid-19 testing in Ampang May 18, 2021. — Picture by Firdaus Latif
Healthcare workers in protective suits are seen conducting Covid-19 testing in Ampang May 18, 2021. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, June 22 — Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has called for Covid-19 testing to be expanded for a more accurate assessment of Malaysia’s situation, claiming some politicians were misrepresenting the meaning of declining daily cases.

Saying health authorities here were following a questionable strategy against the pandemic by reducing testing, Anwar said among those who called for increased testing were local medical and infectious disease experts, data scientists, economists and even think tanks affiliated with the ruling government.

He alleged that some politicians were using the declining case numbers in isolation to try and claim that the movement control order has been effective.

“Malaysia has been in a state of Emergency since January. It is perplexing why testing capacity has not reached the projected target and why a government with emergency powers has to plead with the private sector to assist in this effort,” he said in a statement here.

He then cited yesterday’s data from the Health Ministry, whereby only 58,384 Covid-19 tests were conducted and 4,611 positive cases were reported which yielded a case positive rate of 7.90 per cent — one of the highest daily nationwide case positive rates observed since January.

Anwar said data showed that testing has decreased by 52 per cent since May 29 with daily cases having decreased 48 per cent during the same time period as well.

“By way of comparison in April 2021, Malaysia on average reported 2,107 new cases per day and conducted 58,277 tests per day.

“In other words — we now have more than double the cases but are conducting roughly the same amount of testing that we observed in April,” he said.

He said Malaysia should be doing at least 138,000 tests and as many as 300,000 tests daily according to the World Health Organisation’s recommendation where it was proposed that 10 to 30 tests should be conducted per positive case and more tests should be done when there is widespread transmission in order to catch and contain sporadic cases.

Citing a February 5 remark issued by Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah where the latter said the Health Ministry aimed to increase the capacity of Covid-19 tests in laboratories nationwide to 200,000 tests a day, Anwar said the most tests observed in a single day is 126,964 on May 29 which was nowhere near the 200,000 intended target.

“Given the slowness of vaccinations, testing must increase in order to protect the safety and health of all people in Malaysia,” he added.

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