PETALING JAYA: Malaysia is battling its biggest spike in Covid-19 infections since the pandemic started, driven by the Omicron variant.

First reported to the World Health Organisation from South Africa on Nov 24 last year, Omicron was first detected in Malaysia eight days later on Dec 2.

Cases started rising rapidly in Malaysia since February this year.

The results of SARS-CoV-2 genome surveillance data for the past six months from August 2021 to January 2022 showed that Omicron comprised 80% of all genome sequencing results in Malaysia.

A high vaccination rate, a decision to increase vaccine coverage to include children as young as five and the rollout of boosters have helped to keep the percentage of serious infections relatively low.

However, hospital admissions are up. The number of MySejahtera check-ins throughout the country has meanwhile fallen, a possible sign that many Malaysians are cautious moving about amid the high number of daily cases.

The following charts offer a snapshot of these trends and others that have emerged in the nearly three months since the variant’s arrival.

Is the wave nearing its peak?

Cases have been hitting new highs in the current spike but started to fall in recent days.

The country’s Covid-19 infectivity rate (R value) is also going down.

The R value refers to the number of people that a person who has the coronavirus will infect.

If the R value is 1 for example, it means that on average, one infected person will spread Covid-19 to one other individual.

An R value higher than 1 means that the number of cases will increase. If the R value falls – especially below 1 – the disease will eventually stop spreading as not enough new people are being infected to sustain the outbreak.

Malaysia’s R value, which went up to 1.51 on Feb 10, has been falling and was at 1.05 on Feb 27.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin on Feb 28 however cautioned that although the country’s daily Rt had steadily dropped to 1.05, it is too early to say that Malaysia has gone past the peak of the Omicron wave even with 96% of active cases recovering at home and hospital capacity under control.

Hospital admissions on the rise

The big increase in the number of infections following the arrival of Omicron has contributed to a rise in hospital admissions.

In a statement on Feb 15, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah explained that many patients who have milder infections were also being admitted to hospitals.

They include those who face medical emergencies such as serious hypertension and diabetes, guardians of children or elderly who are admitted and immunocompromised patients.

A number of states are seeing an uptick in patients in intensive care unit (ICU) wards as well as those on ventilators.

Clusters driving current surge

A comparison of the number of infection clusters in the 90 days before and after the first Omicron case was detected in Malaysia reveals that there were fewer clusters detected after Omicron hit due to a rising number of sporadic cases.

However, the country saw a big rise in the number of education clusters during the Omicron wave.

Since the first Omicron case was reported in Malaysia, the number of daily check-ins on the MySejahtera app throughout the country has been on a downward trend.

How Malaysia’s Omicron wave compares to other countries.

The following is what the Omicron surge looks like in several other key countries: