PETALING JAYA: It is time for all countries, including Malaysia, to prepare for the possibility of wider transmission of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific Dr Takeshi Kasai said today.
The World Health Organization representative said the region was at a critical juncture with the virus now confirmed in many parts of the world.
“There are now reports of clusters of cases with no apparent link to China. The latest information suggests that the virus may be more transmissible than early data suggested.
“We must be ready in case there is a wider spread. This requires action today, because preparations take time, especially to ensure that the response reaches everyone in all parts of the country.
“In addition, we need to be ready to consider the possibility of closing schools or postponing mass gatherings, if necessary, to reduce opportunities for the virus to spread,” Kazai said.
He said countries must be ready to make a switch away from testing all suspected cases or tracing the contacts of every person who has the virus to instead applying the limited testing capacity to monitoring geographical spread and trends.
He said this information would affect decisions about the most appropriate public health response.
Kasai said in the case of wider community transmission, countries would need to ensure health facilities can focus on treating the most vulnerable and severe cases.
“This may mean planning to switch away from medically isolating or quarantining everyone who is infected to encouraging people with mild illness to stay at home to recover — so that healthcare facilities do not become overwhelmed.
“Steps must also be taken to ensure health facilities do not become places that amplify the virus’ spread, infecting staff and other patients.
“I understand why people are worried as this is a new disease and there is much we still don’t know. The best thing we can do is to be prepared.”
Kazai said the public can help by frequently washing their hands and, if unwell, staying at home and not risking infecting others.
Kazai said in China, around 2% of the people infected have died. Outside of Hubei province, the death rate among those infected is around 0.4%.