KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia has for the third day running reported a record number of daily Covid-19 infections with 13,215 cases on Thursday (July 15), the same day a top health official warned that the highly transmissible Delta variant could spread just by fleeting contact.
“In the past, we learnt that a person can get infected from another individual through close contact of less than 1m over a duration of 15 minutes. Now, we are informed that the Delta variant can infect someone in just 15 seconds, and the virus is airborne,” Director-General of Health Noor Hisham Abdullah told reporters.
He was speaking a day after The Straits Times reported on a Malaysian woman who said her family was infected with the Delta variant despite being in self-imposed lockdown and relying on online services since April.
Malaysia first surpassed the five-figure mark for daily infections on Tuesday when the country reported 11,079 new daily cases. On Wednesday, 11,618 new cases were recorded.
Cases have been soaring despite the fact that the country has been under a lockdown since June 1.
To date, the country’s most populous state, Selangor, remains at the epicentre of infections with cumulative cases standing at 307,094. The state accounted for more than half of the daily total on Thursday with 6,120 cases.
Malaysia as a whole has reported 880,782 cases since the onset of the pandemic early last year.
Dr Noor Hisham had earlier warned that the number of new cases could increase over the next two weeks because the highly infectious Delta variant had been detected in almost every state.
Hospitals are struggling to cope with the rising number of Covid-19 patients, and hotels in the country are being converted into quarantine and treatment centres for low-risk patients to alleviate the burden on the healthcare system.
Despite the record number of cases, the government on Thursday disclosed that it is considering relaxing movement restrictions for the fully vaccinated, including allowing them to travel and to dine-in, projecting that the country may move into the second phase of its four-phase Covid-19 exit plan from as early as August.
The government is also attempting to ramp vaccinations, announcing that it will soon allow anyone above 60 to walk into any general practitioner clinic participating in the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme to receive a jab.
Health Minister Adham Baba said the pilot project would begin in Selangor and the capital, Kuala Lumpur, before being expanded nationwide.
Presently, about 700 GPs in Selangor and KL are involved in the initiative, he said.
Dr Adham estimated that 300,000 doses could be administered daily if all GPs participated in the programme.
“We have decided that 2,229 private clinics or general practitioners in Selangor, as well as 1,254 in KL can join us to give vaccinations,” he told reporters on Thursday.
“The reason we decided this was because we have noticed there are still a number of individuals over the age of 60 who have yet to be vaccinated,” he said.
The implementation date of the initiative will be announced later, the Health Ministry said in a statement.
The ministry has also decided that vaccination centres for the industrial sector could operate 24 hours a day in Selangor, KL and Seremban.
Dr Adham also said the east coast state of Kelantan would stop administering the first doses of Chinese vaccine Sinovac from Sunday due to ample supplies of the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty vaccine.
“Basically it is because we have sufficient supply of the Pfizer vaccines, of more than 44 million doses, so now the main vaccine that will be used is the Pfizer vaccine,” he said, adding that other states will follow suit and rely mainly on it.