Detailed epidemiology of COVID-19 in Malaysia up to 31 May 2021

“The Epidemiology of COVID-19 in Malaysia” was recently published by the The Lancet Regional Health – Western Pacific. This research work by Vivek Jason Jayaraj, Sanjay Rampal, Chiu-Wan Ng, Diane Woei Quan Chong concluded that:

“The public health response was successful in the suppression of COVID-19 transmission or the first half of 2020. However, a state election and outbreaks in institutionalised populations have been the catalyst for more significant community propagation. This rising community transmission has continued in 2021, leading to increased incidence and strained healthcare systems. Calibrating NPI based on epidemiological indicators remain critical for us to live with the virus.” [Click on the paragraph to go to the source]

The current sustained community transmission of Covid-19 is a cautionary tale of the possible effects of large elections and the difficulty in mitigating its long term societal impact.

The transmission of COVID-19 continues to dominate the headlines. Despite successful suppression of the epidemic within the first half of 2020, Malaysia has suffered from several waves of transmission since then. Despite high rates of transmission there remains a paucity of published epidemiologic analysis on the transmission of COVID-19 and the control measures utilised within Malaysia. A systematic analysis on epidemiological indicators of importance was carried out to understand the evolving epidemiology of COVID-19 in Malaysia and in doing so develop insights in informing prevention and control policies.

We found that the epidemiology of COVID-19 in Malaysia has thus far been spatiotemporally diverse with large outbreaks being observed in specific populations at different periods of time. Transmission has thus far occurred in waves that peak every 4-6 months. High-intensity non-pharmaceutical interventions have been utilised over long periods of time in containing the disease. However, the effectiveness of these measures have not resulted in the containment of disease over prolonged periods. These non-pharmaceutical interventions must continuously be calibrated based on epidemiologic indicators such as those explored here. As greater transparency and collaboration in data sharing is now being observed, this publication serves as an important reminder on the importance of epidemiologic analysis in calibrating control measures.

A more sustainable approach to this pandemic may be to dynamically calibrate the intensity of NPIs based on trajectory analysis of these indicators. 

The full manuscript is available here.

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