MCO 3.0: Middle ground approach to sustain livelihoods

While tighter SOPs will reduce economic activities, business continuation will prevent country from larger losses

by SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH / pic by BERNAMA

THE government’s decision not to shutter the economy as the country battles to control the pandemic is seen as the best solution to sustain the livelihood of millions of people, said economists.

Despite the call for a total lockdown, the government decided to tighten standard operating procedures (SOPs) by forcing more people to work from home, curbing unnecessary movements and shortening business hours.

Putra Business School Assoc Prof Dr Ahmed Razman Abdul Latiff said allowing businesses to continue is crucial, taking into account that Malaysia’s unemployment rate spiked to its highest level in 27 years.

“The government’s decision is understandable given that the but now, their appointments are stretched and medication has decreased.

“From every three months, they now take their medication every six months,” Dr Hanafiah told The Malaysian Reserve.

He added that with Covid-19 issues taking over our lives, people tend to forget about influenza, which has been infecting many Malaysians with a high number of deaths.

“Because it is relatively new, with new variants constantly emerging, Covid-19 seemed to have stolen all of our focus, but we must not forget about influenza which has been affecting Malaysians for a long time.

“With all these talks about Covid-19 screening, influenza screening is also important. Influenza cases usually increase towards the end of the year, when the temperature drops.

“Influenza follows cold temperatures, similar to the flu in Europe. Just like the seasonal flu, in cold weather, there would be an outbreak,” he said.

Apart from influenza, Dr Hanafiah also warned about dengue fever, which is especially prevalent during the monsoon season and Malaysia has been battling this for many years.

“It is quite critical where we have recorded many deaths from dengue fever, so we must not put our guards down against it despite the Covid-19 crisis,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health (MoH) deputy director (NCD), Disease Control Division, Dr Feisul Idzwan Mustapha said individuals with NCDs are at a higher risk of more severe Covid-19 symptoms and have a higher risk of dying from it.

Unfortunately, the management of NCD patients have been badly impacted during the pandemic.

“As healthcare providers and services are more focused towards managing the Covid-19 pandemic, management of patients with NCDs has been negatively impacted because of resource reallocation and re-prioritisation.

“Follow-up appointments have been postponed, as well as scheduled surgeries,” he said.

On top of that, the public is also afraid of contracting Covid-19 when visiting clinics and hospitals.

“The level of NCDs is already high among Malaysians and it increases with age. Malaysia has the highest prevalence of diabetes and obesity among Asean countries, not to mention hypertension, high cholesterol and smoking,” said Dr Feisul.

The economic strain caused by Covid-19 and the MCOs imposed are also leading to mental health issues in the community such as depression, stress and anxiety.

“Poor mental health affects the individual’s quality of life, general health, as well as impacts one’s relationship with family members, friends and community members,” Dr Feisul explained.

Because of depression, stress and anxiety, there were many reports of domestic violence, child neglect and child abuse, especially among the lower socioeconomic populations.

“To deal with this, they are likely to adopt unhealthy lifestyles such as poor diet, increased smoking habits, drugs and alcoholism, which would all lead to NCDs,” Dr Feisul added.

MCO 3.0 was initially enforced on Kuala Lumpur and Selangor from May 7 to May 17, but a few days after its announcement, MCO 3.0 was extended nationwide and is now scheduled to end on June 7.

While many see a full-scale MCO as the right move to bring down the surging cases, there are also fresh concerns of the above mentioned health issues rising again.

To avoid this, last Friday, the government announced that there will be no full-scale lockdown as that would negatively impact up to four million people, according to Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz.

Instead, measures will be tightened. Among others, shops are only allowed to operate from 8am to 8pm, while 80% of the public sector and 40% of the private sector will be working from home. Public transportations can also operate with just 50% capacity.

These tightened measures will take effect tomorrow.