The COVID-19 pandemic is now in its 11-month since the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that a cluster of Pneumonia in Wuhan, Hubei Province in China. There are currently (11 Nov 2020 @ 5:52 CET) 51,251,715 cases of COVID-19 including 1,270,930 deaths and 490,478 new cases announced by the WHO.
Two days ago, Pfizer and BioNTech have announced their mRNA-based vaccine candidate, BNT162b2, was found to be more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 in participants without evidence of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection in the first interim efficacy analysis. However, these results are still preliminary, as the follow-up period was only for the first 7 days after the 2-doses. To complicate things further, the vaccine needs to be transported at -80°C to maintain the efficacy of the vaccine.
There may be some glimmer of hope with this announcement of the success of the vaccine, however, it may still be a long way off till the vaccine can reach the masses to have the desired effect of herd immunity can be achieved.
In the meantime, other measures, particularly the non-pharmacological effort, i.e., public health intervention is still required until we get a reliable vaccine that can be easily deployed. In an interview with the CodeBlue Galencentre, Professor Datuk Dr Awang Bulgiba Awang Mahmud suggested that in the next three to six months, as a mid-term plan, the government should share the real-time data on COVID-19 cases and consult experts on it.
Dr Awang again stressed that the government should engage behavioural scientists to study how compliance with SOPs can be maintained in the long run and how to avoid SOP fatigue among the public.
Dr Awang said that it is essential that we do not forget about other diseases, the government to also pay attention to non-COVID-19 patients. He that any disruption in service will particularly affect people who reside in areas where healthcare facilities are suboptimal, high poverty rate and porous borders. He continues, that in Sabah, certain hospitals have been forced to close their outpatient clinics as an effort to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Besides paying attention to non-COVID-19 patients, the government should also not forget about the marginalised groups, e.g., the homeless, poor and elderly.
He said that the elderly really needs to be shielded when community transmission is high, as they have higher morbidity and mortality from the virus.
He also said that the data should be available in real-time and come from a single agency. He said that it would be wise to consult university experts who have the capability to integrate and analyse data.
Taking this advice, researchers at the University of Malaya, Dr Vivek Jason Jayaraj under the direction of Professor Dr Sanjay Rampal has developed a real-time COVID-19 epidemiological dashboard.
Various data and information were sourced to develop the dashboard from; i.e., case data from Ministry of Health Malaysia, population demographics data from the Department of Statistics Malaysia, health capacity data from various sources, serial interval data from literature reviews, and mobility data from Google mobility reports.
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