Covid-19 deaths in Malaysia hit five-month high, most did not have booster shots

Daily cases in Malaysia have been hovering in the five-figure range since Feb 6 due to the Omicron variant. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia has urged its people to get booster shots as the number of Covid-19 deaths reported on Wednesday (March 2) hit 115, out of which 36 were dead on arrival in hospital.

The figure was the highest in five months, and data for this year shows that most of those who died had not taken a third dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

"Mortality data for the year showed that 91 per cent of those who died from Covid-19 had not taken a booster dose," Malaysia's Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin tweeted on Thursday.

"It's very important for high-risk groups (seniors and those with serious comorbidities) to get a booster immediately. Families and communities also need to monitor the health condition of the elderly. If you have a fever or a slight cough, see a doctor. Please," he said. Comorbidities refer to other underlying medical conditions.

The death toll reported on Wednesday was the highest since Oct 7, when 132 deaths were registered.

But Mr Khairy pointed out that the deaths did not occur on a single day.

A total of 62 deaths, or 54 per cent of those reported on Wednesday, occurred within 72 hours, and the remaining 53 took place after this period.

Figures show that 9 per cent of the 113 patients classified as brought-in-dead at hospitals between Feb 5 and Feb 21 were not aware that they had Covid-19, said Mr Khairy. Most, or 91 per cent, tested positive only after death.

He said that many next of kin thought the victims had mild symptoms prior to rushing them to hospital.

Mr Khairy has repeatedly reminded the public not to treat Covid-19 as a "normal flu" when going about their daily lives, as the country continues to deal with a surge in Covid-19 cases mostly caused by the highly transmissible but less severe Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Daily cases in Malaysia have been hovering in the five-figure range since Feb 6 due to the Omicron variant.

On Thursday, the country reported 27,500 new infections, slightly lower than the record high of 32,070 on Feb 24, which triggered panic buying of Covid-19 home test kits.

Malaysia is slowly transitioning towards treating the disease as endemic. Nearly 83 per cent of its 32 million population have received one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine as at Wednesday, and almost 79 per cent have received two vaccine doses. The proportion of those with booster shots was 45.4 per cent.

The government also aims to vaccinate 3.6 million children aged five to 11 ahead of the new school year. So far, more than 904,368 children, or 26.2 per cent of those in that age group, have received their first dose.

A Quarantine and Treatment Centre located at Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang has been reopened as a preventive measure amid the surge in cases. It is aimed at functioning as a buffer as hospitals have resumed offering non-Covid-19 services and treatments, including elective procedures.

There are 100 beds at the facility, which will be increased to 850 if needed.

Hospital bed occupancy currently stands at 68.6 per cent nationwide, including for non-Covid-19 cases.

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