Official says Malaysia's Covid-19 cases may hit 8,000 daily in March if infection rate rises

KUALA LUMPUR – A top official at Malaysia’s Health Ministry warned on Thursday (Jan 7) that Covid-19 cases could hit 8,000 a day by the middle of March if the country’s infectivity rate rises from the current level.

Malaysia on Thursday reported 3,027 new coronavirus cases – a record high in daily infections – just a day after logging a record high of 2,525 cases.

The prediction by the ministry’s director-general, Tan Sri Noor Hisham Abdullah, using epidemiological prediction models, was made public amid expectations that the government is preparing to impose stricter movement curbs in several parts of the country with high infections.

Dr Noor Hisham on Wednesday warned that the country’s health system is at a “breaking point”, as the number of active cases filled hospital beds to near full capacity.

He said on his official Twitter account on Thursday that Malaysia’s current infectivity rate, or R0, is currently at 1.1.

He posted two susceptible-exposed-infective-recovered (SEIR) epidemiological prediction models of the possible rate of infection in the country.

With the R0 of 1.1, the SEIR model foresees the country possibly hitting 3,000 daily cases by the second week of February.

But the model also projected that with a higher rate of infection, or an R0 of 1.2, Malaysia will record 5,000 cases by the third week of February and 8,000 by the third week of March.

Malaysia is facing a third wave of infections which began on Sept 20. To date, it has recorded 521 fatalities since the outbreak began in January last year.

Of the 3,027 Covid-19 cases reported on Thursday, Johor reported the biggest number of infections due to an outbreak at a factory, the health ministry said.

Most of the cases originated from the Bukit Pasir cluster in Muar town in north-west Johor.

The southern Malaysian state recorded 1,103 new cases, or 34.6 per cent of the total, the first time that daily infections in Johor surpassed those reported by the other 12 Malaysian states.

Total active cases also continued to climb, reaching 25,742 cases, while the country’s cumulative tally now stands at 128,465 cases.

Malaysia is expected to receive the first batch of the Covid-19 vaccines in February.

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