Govt may extend MCO, death toll now 14

NSC will hold a meeting on March 30 to decide whether a 1- or 2- week extension is needed to curb new infections


THE government could extend the Movement Control Order (MCO) for another two weeks if the current restriction fails to break the chain of transmission of Covid-19.

The number of cases has been on the rise in recent weeks, forcing Putrajaya to impose strict movement restrictions on the citizens until the end of the month. Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the National Security Council (NSC) will hold a meeting on March 30 to decide whether a one-or two-week extension is needed to curb new infections.

“The government will see whether the extension is necessary depending on the number of new cases.

“It also depends on the improvement through the Health Ministry’s (MoH) management of the situation, and the cooperation of the remaining of the mass Muslim gathering participants who are yet to be tested,” he said in a briefing in Putrajaya yesterday.

In a separate briefing yesterday, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the compliance rate of MCO has reached 92%, while 120,615 vehicles on the road have been inspected as of Sunday.

“The Malaysian Volunteer Corps, Malaysian Armed Forces and Malaysia Civil Defence Force have increased roadblocks to 1,903, where they inspect and advise drivers to limit their movements,” he said.

Ismail Sabri added that a restriction for travel between states and cities is still in force but allowed, upon approval, for emergency cases.

“For civil servants in the essential services category, the secretary-general of the respective ministries will issue a letter to ease their movements in travelling between cities and states,” he said.

Malaysia, which currently has the highest number of cases in South-East Asia, began its movement restriction on March 18 following the increasing positive cases, of which over two-thirds are linked to a mass Muslim gathering organised by Tablighi Jama’at at the Sri Petaling Mosque in Kuala Lumpur last month.

The country recorded its largest single-day spike yesterday with 212 new cases, raising the total to 1,518 at press time.

More than half of the new patients were linked to the tabligh gathering, while local authorities continue to track thousands others, with nearly 7,000 identified so far.

The death toll from the Covid-19 outbreak continued to climb yesterday with four new deaths reported, bringing the total to 14, while 57 cases (at press time) are currently under intensive care, said Health DG Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

The four deaths include two cases in Sarawak involving a 49-year-old man who was treated at the Sarawak General Hospital and a woman, 51, who was a close contact of a patient from the tabligh cluster. Two elderly men, both aged 70, had also died from the virus.

Dr Noor Hisham said MoH is working to ensure there are sufficient supplies and manpower to cope with the increasing number of infected cases. Several videos of medical staff wrapping themselves in plastic bags and cling wraps went viral on Sunday, raising concerns of supply shortages.

“We now have a stock of 33 million personal protective equipment (PPE) to be used at all our health facilities which will be distributed this week. Additionally, the government has also received up to three million PPE supplies from various parties and it is being distributed accordingly,” he said yesterday.

Dr Noor Hisham said the ministry is also looking to recruit 2,000 additional medical staff, including retired nurses and specialists, to provide further assistance at hospitals with high turnover rates.

Earlier, Muhyiddin announced a total allocation of RM600 million directed to MoH for the purchase of medical supplies such as ventilators, PPE and lab equipment. The fund would also be used to recruit thousands of contract staff, especially nurses.

Over the weekend, Dr Noor Hisham said the ministry is seeking to add 450 new ventilators on top of the 945 ventilators that it has in its hospitals. Some 150 ventilators will be sourced from China.

The country is also raising its capacity to identify new cases, with 16,000 tests set to be carried out per day by April. At the moment, Malaysia can only do 3,500 tests per day. The capacity is set to double this week to 7,000 tests per day, Dr Noor Hisham said.