by RAHIMI YUNUS / pic by BERNAMA
THE Covid-19 pandemic has been spreading rapidly throughout Malaysia in recent days and has now reached over 550 cases (at press time), sparking a raging debate on the need to have a lockdown.
Frontline medical staff are working around the clock to fight the infection, but they are growing tired and overwhelmed by the spike in the number of patients.
Pictures of people lining up at supermarkets’ checkout counters in what could be deemed as “panic buying” emerged on social media yesterday as people began to stockpile.
One burning question: How much is too much before Putrajaya imposes a lockdown?
Experts and stakeholders are still divisive on the matter as some are urging for an “all-out” war against the virus, while others are advocating for gradual measures.
Universiti Malaya’s Tropical Infectious Diseases Research and Education Centre director Prof Dr Sazaly Abu Bakar said the decision on lockdown must be backed by scientific data and not emotion.
“It is not as simple as that. We must look into the data and decide whether a lockdown would be beneficial at all.
“If any, do we want to lock down the whole country or just Kuala Lumpur or areas with high clusters?” he told The Malaysian Reserve yesterday.
He said different countries would impose lockdowns differently depending on their objectives, resources and capability.
During the haze emergency announced by the government in 2005, all government and private sector workplaces were closed including schools, factories and construction sites.
People were advised to stay home, but there was no curfew or restriction of movement, as well as handing power over to the police or army.
However, essential services such as supermarkets, shops selling foods and pharmacies were opened.
When China locked down Wuhan, where Covid-19 originated from, authorities cut all transport into and out of the city of 11 million population.
Private vehicles were banned from the streets, while those with fevers were transported to quarantine centres. People were ordered to stay home unless they needed to buy groceries or get medical care. Schools, offices and factories were shut down, disrupting the global supply chain.
As of yesterday, Italy and Spain have instituted similar nationwide lockdowns.
All non-essential outlets such as bars, restaurants, cafes, football grounds and cinemas are closed.
Spanish police in Madrid used drones fitted with loudspeakers to urge people to go home.
Tyrol Province in Austria has imposed an Italy-styled lockdown as the country banned gatherings of more than five people.
Cities in the US are also put under lockdown as the country has increased border controls.