The Story Behind the Numbers

Understand the numbers is important when we want to manage the current COVID-19 pandemic. In an interview with the News Strait Times on the 8 November 2020, where Malaysia has just reported its highest number of COVID-19 cases in a day since the start of the pandemic, Professor Datuk Dr Awang Bulgiba Awang Mahmud shared his views.

He said the looking at the whole number, i.e., 1755 cases is not enough, as 70% of the cases are from Sabah, and Sabah is a different story. It is different from the rest of Malaysia. The borders in Sabah is very porous and much of the infection in the state has been brought in by illegal immigrants.

Dr Awang also pointed out that the rate of infections appears to be decelerating, however, he said this may be partly attributable to testing limits being reached rather than a real slowing down in rates.

Dr Awang suggested for a statewide seroprevalence survey in Sabah to assertain the extent of community infection.

He also suggested that a seroprevalence survey be conducted countrywide the information will allow us to disaggregate the numbers. It will allow us to assess the success or failure of the containment strategy in Peninsular Malaysia.

Professor Dr Noran Naqiah Mohd Hairi adds that people, too, must keep their eyes on the COVID-19 curve to help flatten it. We should limit our movement to limit contact with others.

She also said that there should be more community engagement by the authorities. The authorities should implement strategies based on people behaviour. She suggested to include behavioural scientists and communication specialist when designing an intervention measure.

The message should be clear – we need to change our behaviour to bring down the COVID-19 numbers.

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