COVID-19: Test all close contacts, be clear on SOP, medical group tells Gov’t

WITH COVID-19 cases reaching alarming numbers, the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) urged the Government to revert back its earlier policy of testing all close contacts without delay.

“The Health Ministry’s (MOH) current policy is to test only symptomatic close contacts. Under preventive measures, isolating them alone will not be sufficient.

“The health status of all close contacts should be established early or we will be risking infections spreading among family members in the household and community if they breach quarantine.

“Screening close contacts will also improve early management of COVID-19 cases. If manpower is an issue, then rope in private general practitioners (GP) to test close contacts,” said its president, Datuk Dr M Subramaniam, in a statement.

Datuk Dr M Subramaniam

He cited a case reported by the media recently, where the husband of an executive editor with The New Straits Times was tested positive for COVID-19.

However, her family (close contacts) were only called in for testing two days after their quarantine had ended, hence they were without pink bracelets for 10 days.

Information dissemination needs improving  

On that note, Subramanian also urged the Government to establish clear standard operating procedures (SOPs), especially on home quarantine as much of the details are still murky.

He added that the Government should also step-up efforts to raise awareness of the SOPs among the public, calling the MOH’s COVID-19 Assessment Centre (CAC) to frequently publish it on all available media outlets using simple Malay, English, Mandarin and Tamil to ensure it is understood by all.

“The Communications and Multimedia Ministry should also increase efforts to ensure MOH’s messages on the CAC and home quarantine SOPs are well communicated at every level,” Subramaniam opined.

The veteran doctor stressed the need of information dissemination, saying there were several reports in the media on confirmed COVID-19 cases, who either waited days for a call from the district health offices (PKD) or had difficulty contacting them.

“Although the SOPs for home quarantine can be accessed via the MySejahtera app and MOH’s official website, some of the positive cases were not aware and needed to speak to a public health official.

“We should expect that those who tested positive for COVID-19 might be overcome with anxiety and will try desperately to contact the department in charge for assistance and guidance on what to do.

“It must also be assumed that there will be elderly citizens who would try to reach out, therefore every call should be treated with urgency,” Subramaniam remarked. – Feb 7, 2021.

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