Covid-19 overshadows rise of other diseases


HEALTH experts are warning of a surge in non-communicable diseases (NCDs) following the government’s decision to reimplement the Movement Control Order (MCO) nationwide.

According to Kasih Cyberjaya Hospital general health and occupational health specialist Dr Hanafiah Bashirun, these include coronary heart diseases related to diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol that could also lead to fatality.

During the first MCO last year, Dr Hanafiah observed a rise of uncontrolled diabetes and uncontrolled hypertension cases, and he foresees this happening again during MCO 3.0.

As such, he urged those suffering from diabetes and hypertension to take extra care of themselves by being diligent with their medication, especially as hospitals are now swamped with Covid-19 cases.

“For diabetes and hypertension patients, their doctor appointments used to be three to six times a month majority of manufacturer associations are opposed to the full lockdown.

“There is a possibility that a full lockdown will worsen unemployment figures, as well as slow the country’s economic recovery further.

“The government is taking a middle approach by allowing economic sectors to continue albeit the reduced workforce,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

Reducing movements, including limiting the number of people at workplaces, will reduce the daily infection rate, said Ahmed Razman.

“I believe the government made the decision based on the fact that reduction of the workforce will stamp the daily infection cases,” he said.

On Saturday, the government decided that 80% of government staff and 40% from the private sector will work from home.

The move will involve 750,000 government staff and 6.1 million private-sector employees, said Senior Minister (Security) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob on Saturday.

Other stricter measures are also put in place to ensure the economy does not collapse, seen during the first Movement Control Order (MCO) in March last year.

MCO 1.0 shuttered overall economic activities and saw businesses losing RM2.4 billion daily, sending the economy into a tailspin. Many companies were also forced to retrench their staff, sending unemployment rates to new highs in the consequent months.

Universiti Kuala Lumpur Business School economic analyst Assoc Prof Dr Aimi Zulhazmi Abdul Rashid said.

“The decision to reduce the number of employees working at offices in the government and private sector emphasises the importance of economic recovery this year.

“The current daily revenue losses between RM200 million and RM300 million may increase slightly with the tighter SOPs, but it would not be as large as the RM1.6 billion daily like during MCO 1.0.

“The billion in losses during the first MCO had resulted in the largest GDP growth contraction of negative 17.1% in the second quarter of 2020 (2Q20) and an unemployment rate of 5.1%,” he told TMR.

Aimi Zulhazmi also said the containment measures imposed by the government should be accompanied by individuals’ efforts to restrict movements to tame the spread of the virus.

“The pandemic may not go away as early as we expect it to be and will persist for the long term. The slower vaccination programme due to the late delivery and emergence of new variants with a more devastating impact will certainly extend the period of the country’s war against this virus,” he said, adding that the discipline level of all Malaysians to comply with the tighter regulations would be paramount.

He does not discount that the country’s economy would contract in 2Q21 after similar trends in 4Q20 and 1Q21. The imposition of the circuit breakers in key areas like Kuala Lumpur and Selangor saw the country’s economy contracting 0.7 in 1Q21.

He did not dismiss the possibility that Malaysia could take a longer time to recover from the pandemic, despite an initial forecast of 6% to 7.5% economic growth.

“As the pandemic seems to be a challenging task for the next few years, so is the country’s economic recovery.

“The figures for 2Q21 may be better than 2Q20 due to the lower base last year, but the expected recovery will certainly be hampered by MCO 3.0,” he said.

Despite thriving exports fuelled by palm oil, semiconductors, rubber gloves and crude oil, worries over timid local consumption and rising inflation rate would put additional pressures on the economy.

“The government needs to stimulate the domestic economy. Despite the strong liquidity in the banking system, loan growths are not encouraging. In fact, non-performing loans are rising as many businesses shrink or many even had to shutter.

“Managing the interest rates and monetary policy is crucial to meet the current situation. A more resounding fiscal policy is also needed to plot the long-term recovery,” Aimi Zulhazmi said.