Stricter lockdown necessary, says expert

Governance under MCO 3.0 has ‘slackened’ and not helping economy to revive

by AFIQ AZIZ / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

IT IS paramount for the government to have a new strategy to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, including imposing a stricter lockdown for an adequate period.

Former deputy Health DG Dr Lokman Hakim Abdullah said the government’s move to enforce the same type of “half-baked” Movement Control Order (MCO) now will not produce the desired results, as what was shown in the second MCO implemented in January.

“The MCO 2.0 did not achieve its target, while the Emergency orders did little to help the government to control Covid-19 spread.

“This is not surprising because the government relies solely on cross-state barriers and people’s actions to comply with standard operating procedures (SOPs),” Dr Lokman Hakim told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

“And when the case goes up, the people are blamed for not following the SOP.

“But, there is no other action by the government like targeted screening that specifically addresses potential sporadic cases,” he said in a text reply.

Dr Lokman Hakim believed that the sporadic cases have grown bigger even before MCO 2.0 was implemented and things can go out of control without proper intervention.

“Perhaps now Selangor is conducting community testing, which would help contact tracing processes, but more of such facilities be made available,” he added.

Selangor, which has been leading the daily Covid-19 cases at four digits over the past one month, kicked off community testing on May 8.

The free screening aims to trace positive Covid19 patients statewide with 19 assessment centres established for the purpose.

“I agree with MCO 3.0 we will reduce the case, but if the strategy is still the same, we will have to do MCO 4.0 after this and so on until we reach herd immunity,” said Dr Lokman Hakim. “But how long will it take to reach that level? Can our economy survive?”

University of Malaya economist Prof Datuk Dr Rajah Rasiah told TMR that the governance under MCO 3.0 has “slackened” and is not helping the economy to revive.

“While the SOPs were followed too strictly during the first MCO, (they are) not followed consistently now,” he said, suggesting that enforcers should be stationed at points where crowds gather, instead of being parked at interdistrict cross-points.

He said the latter points can be retained to prevent interdistrict spread, but with fewer personnel.

“While bazaars may be important to be opened now owing to the impoverishment faced by the poor, especially the informal micro businesses that neither have the knowledge nor the capacity to register with the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, the officers should man these places strictly to ensure that SOPs are observed,” said Rajah.

Under MCO 3.0, which was enforced a day before Hari Raya Aidilfitri, the government banned inter-district movements with the deployment of police and armed forces, like the mechanism of previous MCOs.

While agreeing with a stricter implementation of MCO, Malay Economic Council Action senior fellow Ahmad Yazid Othman said the move must be followed through with economic support and assistance to small businesses, such as targeted loan moratorium.

Monthly cash transfer for the poor and monthly subsidies for wages must also be considered until vaccination reaches 80% of the population.

“With the Emergency powers in hand, the government should be effective in making decisions that are able to assist the people, rather than using it as a tool or being perceived as doing nothing significant in assisting the people in this trying period.

“Bold actions such as Act 829 need to be reviewed quickly and enforced to assist and cushion the people’s burden,” he said to TMR.

“It should cover creditors as long as the loan moratorium is in effect due to MCO.”