Has Malaysia’s Omicron Wave Peaked?

Graph courtesy of MoH and The Edge Markets
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If Malaysia follows the pattern of the Omicron variant’s surge seen in other countries, the outlook is encouraging.

As 2021 segued into 2022, Malaysia’s Covid picture was looking better and better with each passing day. Somehow, the incredibly transmissible Omicron variant hadn’t yet impacted the country, and bit by bit, cases were declining. More importantly, other metrics like deaths, hospitalisations, and case positivity rates were all heading downward, too.

That all ended in mid-January, however, as the dreaded Omicron wave crashed headlong onto Malaysia’s shores. On January 17, just over 2,300 new cases were logged. From that point onward, there was an intense surge, jumping first by hundreds of new cases per day, then quickly shifting to daily increases measured in thousands.

Within two weeks of that low-water new case mark on January 17, the daily count had more than doubled. Within another week, it had nearly tripled again, with over 11,000 new cases tallied on February 7. From there, it was well and truly off to the races, with the next two weeks seeing a full-on skyrocketing of new cases — repeatedly setting, erasing, then setting again new all-time daily records — cresting on February 24 with 32,070 new cases reported.

Since then, however, the new case count has fallen each day, down to 23,100 as of yesterday. So have we passed the peak of the Omicron wave?

Khairy Jamaluddin said that despite the recent drop in cases and infectivity, it’s still too early to know for sure if Malaysia’s peak has passed | Image Credit: Astro Awani

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin adopted a cautiously optimistic tone in a recent press briefing, but said it was simply “too early” to tell. And that’s certainly true. But along with the drop in new daily cases, the more crucial tallies of hospital admissions and daily deaths — which had both ticked upwards, though not nearly at the same rate as the new cases — are also starting to decline again. Notably, the infectivity index is heading downward, as well, another encouraging sign.

In other countries, including the UK, South Africa, and the US, the surge of the Omicron variant was incredibly intense, but short-lived. In all these countries, the peak was reached within four to six weeks, after which there was a significant plunge in the rate of spread that almost mirrored (in reverse) the wave’s immense surge.

Based on that, along with the data generated over the past few days in Malaysia, it does seem probable that the wave here has crested. The Ministry of Health predicted, even as the cases began to rise in the second half of January, that the Omicron surge would likely peak and fall by late March, and we certainly seem to be well on track for that.

People wait to receive their jabs during Malaysia’s successful vaccination drive in 2021 | Image Credit: AFP

Fortunately, though Omicron is clearly far more transmissible than previous strains of Covid-19, it seems to be a milder pathogen, at least for most people. In Malaysia, well over 99% of all the new Omicron cases have been either asymptomatic or produce only mild symptoms, clearing up within a handful of days. That fact alone has probably forestalled the panic and dread we saw earlier in the pandemic, when the new daily case counts were actually far lower.

Now, though we’re not quite out of the woods yet, there does seem to be a sign of hope that the worst of Omicron’s surge may have come and gone here in Malaysia, though of course only a bit more time will tell.

In the meantime, keep practicing good preventative measures (such as washing your hands regularly and wearing good-quality face masks in public), get boosted if you haven’t already, and stay vigilant and safe!


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