Health experts are calling on Malaysia to fine-tune its Covid-19 mitigation strategies to cope with the Omicron surge as the nation braces itself for the next wave of cases, which is expected to last some weeks.

This comes as Malaysia recorded over 10,000 cases over the past 24 hours, something which it had not seen since October.

Epidemiologist Sanjay Rampal warned that the peak of this new wave of Covid-19 cases would be felt in the coming two to three months.

He explained that the reason for this could be due to the community transmission of the Omicron strain and decreased health seeking behaviour following the floods at the end of last year.

“If the recent increase is due to the Omicron strain, I believe that could breach the 20,000 daily cases in four weeks,” he said on February 6.

The health ministry had also predicted that Malaysia’s Covid-19 cases would continue to show an upwards trend in the coming weeks.

However, following the precedent in other countries like South Africa, Britain and the US, where the strain had peaked and ebbed, the surge was likely to last weeks and not months.

According to Our World in Data, the number of new cases recorded in Britain were over 847,371 on January 31, but this had fallen drastically to over 60,114 by February 5.

Similarly, new cases in South Africa peaked at 26,389 on December 15, but had fallen to 8,078 cases by January 4. On February 5, there were 6,135 cases.

Health authorities, said Rampal, could manage the coming Omicron wave by preparing the country’s public health services, testing facilities, and primary health care facilities to cope with the possible exponential increase in demand for prevention activities.

“A failure to plan for surge capacity at the district level will lead to our public health services being overwhelmed and higher levels of Covid-19 community transmission.

“Although the stress to our hospitals will be relatively lower in this new wave, I expect a very much higher demand for primary healthcare services,” he added.

Immunologist Musa Nordin said the health minister would need to take a proactive stance and sound the clarion call to counter the onslaught of Omicron by reactivating the Covid-19 National Task Force (NTF).

Originally known as the Greater Klang Valley Special Covid-19 Task Force (GKVSTF), the NTF is made up of an inclusive, coordinated multi-agency or sectorial team with varying expertise in pandemic management.

“The GKVSTF had successfully flattened the Delta curve when earlier efforts, including MCOs and Emergency Ordinances (EO), failed, causing critical case numbers to spike in July last year, resulting in a total collapse of healthcare services, and a catastrophic number of deaths,” said Musa.

He also noted that the entire workflow involving district hospitals, quarantine centres, government and private hospitals must be comprehensively addressed, with the implementation of an end-to-end automated outbreak management system.