Covid-19: Malaysia needs stricter enforcement

by NUR HANANI AZMAN/ pic by ARIF KARTONO

THERE should be stricter enforcement across the board on the possibility of a second wave of Covid-19 infection, although Malaysia is in the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO), experts said.

Kuching, Sarawak, reported six new cases yesterday. Its Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah confirmed that with 10 new cases last Friday, Sarawak is bracing for a second wave of Covid-19 infection.

Globally, second wave cases were reported in Hong Kong with 300 new cases within two weeks, while Japan’s capital of Tokyo recorded 290 cases on Saturday — the third consecutive day that new coronavirus cases surpassed 200 daily.

In Australia’s state of Victoria, 428 cases were reported last Friday, making it the new epicentre of virus infection in the country.

Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr N Ganabaskaran said stricter enforcement is needed, considering the current situation, as he noted there has been an increasing lax in attitude among Malaysian citizens.

Without regular checks from enforcement officers, some shops and restaurant owners may take the standard operating procedures (SOPs) lightly, he explained.

“To customers, if an outlet is ignoring the SOPs, people may be given the impression that everything is back to normal, which isn’t the case. We can politely remind people about the SOPs if they are not being adhered to,” Dr Ganabaskaran told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

“Alternatively, if it is a shop or restaurant owner, we should politely bring it up to the attention of the owner or management.”

As a last resort, MMA believes there are proper channels to report these matters to the authorities, but of course with sufficient evidence.

Dr Ganabaskaran said it is possible for the new normal to extend until the end of this year.

“We may even be observing the new normal beyond this year. Globally, we are seeing the impact of a pandemic on economies.

“Countries will want to take all necessary precautions to avoid a lockdown and disruptions to economic activity.”

Major shopping malls nationwide have undertaken a string of actions, such as temperature checks and spraying hand sanitisers before letting customers enter the building, in an effort to ensure the health of shoppers and staff.

However, weeks after the RMCO announcement, it is observed that more Malaysians are becoming complacent by not adhering to socialdistancing practices, among others.

Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob warned that the relaxation of restrictions under the RMCO will be reversed if Malaysians fail to adhere to SOPs and safety measures enforced.

Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib expressed his worries that Malaysians are not only becoming relaxed, they are also becoming complacent and careless.

“They are letting their guard down out of a misplaced sense of security, which is driven by the perception that the number of Covid-19 infections are low and that this is a problem affecting mostly non-Malaysians.

“This is wrong. Historically, viral outbreaks such as Covid-19 often flare up during such periods when people no longer maintain a heightened state of vigilance and caution,” he told TMR.

Just because the reported official numbers of infections are low, Azrul warned this does not mean the virus is not in the community. He said more than 80% of cases are asymptomatic, yet it remains virulent during its infectious stage.

“More than 85% experience mild symptoms, which mean that they are not likely to get screened for Covid-19 or treated for the disease.

“In fact, all that stands between us and a serious outbreak are the steps that we take to proactively prevent transmission of the virus, such as wearing masks, washing hands and disinfecting surfaces.”

Azrul said people need to be reminded that if there is another wave, those who are older and with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease and cardiovascular diseases are the ones that will suffer more.

“The realities of living with the threat of an infectious disease in the community started with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, but the understanding of Covid-19 so far has forced us to acknowledge that we have to permanently adopt changes and new habits.

“This new reality is one that we will have to accept permanently until there is a viable, effective and safe vaccine available. For the moment, it is now a matter of when we get Covid-19 and not if.”