Don’t we have alternatives for MCO?

Lack of understanding on the driving forces can lead to hiccups and confused decisions, says expert

by THE CENTRE FOR MARKET EDUCATION / Pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

SIX districts in Selangor will undergo the Movement Control Order (MCO) from today until May 17. The six districts are Hulu Langat, Petaling, Gombak, Klang, Kuala Langat and Sepang. The remaining three districts — Kuala Selangor, Sabak Bernam and Ulu Selangor — will remain under the Conditional MCO.

The Centre for Market Education (CME) expresses concerns over two main points.

First, insisting on lockdowns — or semi-lockdowns — despite their effectiveness is questioned not only by the results achieved in Malaysia, but also by abundant scientific literature published worldwide.

Secondly, the lack of an adequate communication strategy. Individuals and businesses are left in the dark with regard to the actual content of the so-called MCO 3.0.

A Ministry of International Trade and Industry announcement about business standard operating procedures (SOPs) during the new movement restrictions was released yesterday, leaving only a few hours left for businesses to take the appropriate measures to organise their activities according to the new regulations.

CME CEO Dr Carmelo Ferlito said the lack of understanding on the driving forces of the market and economic processes can lead to hiccups and confused decisions like the ones that have been followed in the past 15 months.

“This will undermine the economic recovery, without achieving any real medical benefit,” he added.

According to the CME, the critical points that need to be underlined with regard to MCO 3.0 are as follows:

• New restrictions, together with improper communication, are undermining business mood and expectations. Nothing is worse than uncertainty for businesses, and frustration among entrepreneurs may prevail. As a consequence, more firms may decide to close down for good, which leads to more unemployment, rather than to struggle in order to survive within a hostile environment.

• Long-term consequences on individuals’ mental health will convert into long-term economic losses for the country.

• SOPs are communicated with delay and unclarity, up to the point that different ministries are sending conflicting messages. Some SOPs, furthermore, do not make sense. For example, why make face masks compulsory in a public park when several studies have demonstrated that outdoor and open-air transmission is almost impossible?

• Defending the current MCO 3.0 as part of a “targeted approach” also demonstrates a poor understanding of what targeted approach means. A targeted approach should not simply be based on geographical considerations, but first and foremost on the identification of risk groups.

• MCOs are regressive, weighing disproportionally on the most fragile segments of the population. Only the rich can afford lockdowns. On the fact that hospital capacity and intensive care units are reaching breaking points, the CME objects that we are not anymore at the beginning of the pandemic and we have now a greater understanding of the virus dynamics, so why have we not invested in more hospital beds and medical equipment, together with research for a treatment, rather than insisting on lockdowns that forced the authorities to deploy resources for generalised subsidies?

The CME, therefore, invites the government to radically change its approach and to base it on data and the latest scientific literature:

• We need to achieve targeted immunity by deploying a massive test initiative, which means to involve institutions and economic players in order to test everybody (at schools and workplaces) once a week. Such a strategy would allow the detection of infections at an early stage, avoid asymptomatic transmissions by early isolation of positive individuals, and reduce mortality by identifying positive individuals before the situation gets critical.

• Strengthen data collection to identify the categories of people with a higher risk of dying of Covid-19.

• Implement targeted actions to protect those groups, by enhancing territorial healthcare.

• Focus on research for home treatments, like the very effective ones developed by the doctors of the Ippocrate Group.

“I invite everybody to read what a group of doctors from top three world universities wrote in the Great Barrington Declaration (https://gbdeclaration.org/).

“All the key points for a better strategy are there,” Ferlito concluded.


The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the newspaper’s owners and editorial board.