PETALING JAYA: Those who test positive for Covid-19 through self-test kits but are not reporting their cases to the Health Ministry as required by law are making it hard for health authorities to track and assess the pandemic in the country, warn experts.

This comes as Penang welfare committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said the state had reason to believe that some people, including those staying there, might choose to try and weather out their affliction without informing the authorities.

This, he added, made it hard for health authorities to accurately gauge the Covid-19 situation.

He said Penang might currently see a lower average number of between 200 and 300 cases daily compared to before, but “this does not mean that we can take it easy”.

“We believe many positive cases in the community are unreported. This makes it hard for us to track these cases,” he told reporters after launching a digital food bank in Ayer Itam yesterday.

Based on the seven-day average of new cases, the Covid-19 numbers in Penang had increased by 2% as at Saturday while the hospitalisation rate was up 15% week-on-week.

Malaysian Medical Association president Dr Koh Kar Chai said with the availability of self-test kits, it was of concern that many were not reporting their results when they test positive.

“Reporting all positive cases is essential for the management of the pandemic as far as public health is concerned,” he said, adding that health authorities would not be able to get a true picture of the current situation without proper data.

“This might run the real risk of losing control of the pandemic.”

Dr Koh said there was also the possibility that they might not avail themselves to needed medical assistance should they suddenly develop severe symptoms while self-isolating.

“By reporting their positive status, they will be under the observation of health authorities who will advise them on the need for medical intervention if the situation requires it,” he added.

Dr Samsu Ambia Ismail, a doctor from Perak, said those who tested with self-test kits should follow the Health Ministry’s advice by reporting their positive results on their MySejahtera app.

“This is so that their health condition can be monitored and complications such as hypoxia (lacking oxygen at the tissue level) and collapsing at their homes can be avoided,” he said.

This, he added, was especially important for Covid-19 patients who were elderly or with comorbidities.

Dr Samsu Ambia said he had encountered several situations where patients who had tested positive refused to be admitted into hospitals.

“This can be due to them not wanting to be admitted alone as family and friends cannot visit them.

“So, it is possible that there are a number of people out there who refuse to report their positive results from self-test kits through official channels due to various reasons,” he added.

Universiti Putra Malaysia medical epidemiologist Assoc Prof Dr Malina Osman said that those who tested positive were required to report via MySejahtera under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act (Act 342).

Those who fail to report their Covid-19 positive results are considered to have committed an offence under Section 22 of the Act and risk facing jail of up to two years, a fine, or both.

“The reporting is needed for surveillance and prevention purposes.

“Those who tested positive but declined to report may cause a possible spread of the infection,” she warned.

Dr Malina said there were concerns that this would fail to curb the infection as soon as possible, which might then lead to a new cluster or worse, clusters.

“Reporting one’s Covid-19 result is crucial for infection prevention and control,” she added.

Virologist Dr Kumitaa Theva Das said reporting on MySejahtera would provide the Health Ministry with more information on the potential variant and take the right measures to prevent further spread.

“By recording one’s symptoms through MySejahtera, the Health Ministry may be able to identify symptoms specific to the Omicron variant, which may also allow for early detection.

“Contact tracing can also be done when cases are reported.

“Also, those in the vicinity of an infected person will be notified if they are a close or a casual contact and take the appropriate action,” she added.

Unreported cases, Kumitaa said, might explain why there were many sporadic cases within a community.

“Reporting on MySejahtera also provides information regarding the type of vaccine and its efficacy against variants.

“For example, boosters are predicted to provide an additional six months of protection against Delta, and four months of protection against Omicron.

“If there is a breakthrough infection and this is reported on MySejahtera, it will alert the Health Ministry whether there is waning antibodies and what to do next with the particular variant,” Kumitaa added.