Malaysia well-prepared for new Covid-19 waves

However, the biggest challenge now is to continue getting the cooperation and compliance of the public

by S BIRRUNTHA/ pic by RAZAK GHAZALI

AS NEW cases of Covid-19 return to double-digit trends with several new clusters detected, health experts are still optimistic that the country is well-equipped with adequate supplies of necessary equipment to face any new waves of infections.

Osel Group chief clinical and innovative scientist Dr Kris See said the country is now in a good position to face the subsequent waves of Covid-19.

He said after going through multiple stages of the Movement Control Order that include the government’s stringent implementation of standard operating procedures (SOPs), the country is ready to face the upcoming challenges. “We’ve learnt from the earlier

days of the pandemic when everyone was sourcing for personal protective equipment (PPE) and face masks, with many frontliners and the public taking the liberty to create their own PPE and face masks to address the shortage.

“We had come a long way. Industries have stepped up their production lines and agreements have been inked with regional countries, not just in essential supplies but also in food security, keeping trading routes and supply lines open,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) in a phone interview recently.

He added that the special Asean summit on Covid-19 held in April and the establishment Singapore-Malaysia Special Working Committee to address issues relating to the pandemic are good examples of initiatives in battling the disease as a bloc.

“As such, I think we would be ready for the supplies of PPE and face masks, among other essential supplies,” Dr Kris said.

Malaysia has recently made the use of face masks mandatory in public, particularly in crowded areas beginning Aug 1.

Dr Kris said the authorities should keep tab of the accessibility, enforcement and sustainability of the measure, especially among the poor and needy.

“During the early days of the pandemic, there were cases of over-inflated prices of face masks, as well as incidents involving counterfeit products. There were also pollution issues as a direct result of improper disposal of medical wastes. So, initiation is always easy, but enforcement and sustainability is key,” he added.

Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy CEO Azrul Mohd Khalib said Malaysia is neither an exception nor “exempted” from the global or regional epidemiological trend.

“I think what we have done with the SOPs, the PPE supply chain put into place right now are sufficient and, in some ways, better than the implementation in many other more developed countries.

“However, the biggest challenge now is to continue getting the cooperation and compliance of the public,” he told TMR.

Azrul added that currently, complacency is setting in among the public as the country is recording a lower number of cases, especially with a false perception that the infection largely involves non-nationals.

He said the benefits and efficacy of wearing face masks, especially when worn properly, have been demonstrated and documented many times.

“Face masks need to be widely available and affordable. My worry is that such blanket rulings of making something mandatory would victimise people and end up being unfair and unjust.

“Affordable cloth face masks rather than surgical masks should be recommended as they would be more sustainable and cost-effective in the long term,” he said.

Health DG Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah had previously said Malaysia had adopted the guidelines of the World Health Organisation in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic efficiently.

“Experience in handling viruses such as Nipah, SARS and MERS-CoV has helped the Health Ministry in preparing and formulating a response protocol to address the pandemic,” he said.

Azrul recommended that the cooperation between the government, various sectors and the community would continue to play an important role in reducing the daily number of cases in the country.