Health Minister needs to align with NRP’s strategy of FTTIS – Tony Pua

KUALA LUMPUR, July 28- While the government’s National Recovery Plan has made FTTIS or Find, Trace, Test, Isolate and Support (FTTIS) infected persons as the single most important strategy going forward in reducing Covid-19 infectivity rates, it was highly disappointing that Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Adham Baba said almost nothing on this during his presentation at the Dewan Rakyat, said Tony Pua, Member Parliament for Damansara in a press release today.

Calling on the minister to align his ministry’s plans with the strategies outlined in the NRP as presented by the Prime Minister and Finance Minister a day earlier, he said the Health Ministry is severely under-testing the at-risk population for COVID-19, which contributed to the rapid rise of positive cases over the past 4 weeks.

Infectivity rates can be reduced by at least 40%, when 80% of close contacts are traced and quarantined within 4 days of isolating the index case. This requires strengthened measures, with a focus on “mass expansion of testing through Government and community efforts”.

“We have repeatedly highlighted that the Health Director-General’s rejection of ‘mass testing’ in favour of ‘targeted testing’ have become the excuse to do only ‘limited testing’. This has resulted in positivity rates above 10%, and well above the 5% threshold recommended by the World Health Organisation. 

“We would like to re-emphasize that ‘targeted testing’ is Not ‘limited testing’ and the Health Ministry must aggressively multiply the number of targeted tests carried out daily as part of the FTTIS strategy to contain and mitigate the infection in the community.

“If FTTIS strategy is critical to the success of the NRP, then surely, it is the role and responsibility of MoH to flesh out the measure and policies to achieve these goals – such as the number of COVID-19 tests to be carried out proportionate to the positivity rates, how 75% contact tracing could be done within 48 hours and so on. 

In the full NRP Report which was published, the 10-page Chapter 3 dealt with “Strengthening the Healthcare Response to the Pandemic” and it was a relief to know that the Government has finally decided to adopt and prioritise what had been suggested all along by the Opposition, on the importance of sufficient testing to ensure cases are detected and isolated early, he said.

Among the measures would be to to expand testing efforts via simpler and cheaper testing solutions made available to individuals and employers and also “trace 75% of close contacts for isolation within 48 hours of a confirmed case – through a technology- led approach leveraging mobile data”, which is not the case currently.

However, absolutely nothing was elaborated by the Health Minister on this and the biggest concern now is the fear that the NRP, while well-intended and contains critical strategies like FTTIS, the Health Minister and his Ministry are unaligned.

The recommended strategies should be taken for Malaysia to recover from the failures so far, and fight the Covid-19.