KUALA LUMPUR, April 10 — The nationwide lockdown reduced the infectious rate of coronavirus in Malaysia by over three times in three weeks, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said today.
Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said before the Movement Control Order (MCO) was enforced on March 18, the R0 (pronounced R-naught) of COVID-19 in the country was 3.55, which means that each new person spreads the highly contagious disease to about 3.55 people.
But the R0 has now dropped to 1, which means that the average person getting the disease will infect one other person, indicating that COVID-19 is spreading, but at a stable rate. The R0 measures how contagious an infectious disease is by looking at the average number of people a sick person will infect.
“We expect on 14 April, the R0 is 0.9,” Dr Noor Hisham told a press conference.
“If the R0 is 0.9, one person infecting only 0.9 persons, less than one person, which means we’re able to control the infectivity of COVID-19. What we advise the Prime Minister is to extend another two weeks of MCO.
“By extending two weeks of MCO, it gives us more time to put our activities and ensure that we can contain and break the chain of infection. We need to bring down the R0 to 0.9. If that’s the case, we’re on the right track.”
According to Business Insider US, an R0 value of 1 means that the disease is spreading at a stable rate. A value of below 1 means the disease is declining and could die out, whereas a value of more than 1 indicates a continued exponential spread of the virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the R0 of COVID-19 at between 2 and 2.5.
Dr Noor Hisham also said MOH’s prediction has shown a stable coronavirus trajectory in Malaysia, without any exponential surge.
“Last week was perhaps our peak. Now you see our cases getting less and less. So that’s a good sign for us.”
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced earlier today that based on MOH’s advice, the government has extended the MCO by another two weeks to April 28.
MOH reported today 118 new COVID-19 cases and three new deaths, pushing the total confirmed infections to 4,346 cases in the country, as well as a total of 70 fatalities. The number of new recoveries today at 222 exceeded the new infections reported.
According to Al-Jazeera, the R0 of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which previously broke out in 2002-03, is estimated at between 2 and 4, averaging at 3. This means the disease is highly contagious.
The Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), another coronavirus, has an R0 of below 1, indicating it as a mildly contagious disease.