Next two weeks crucial to break the chain of COVID-19 infection

by BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR – The two-week period, beginning today, where Malaysians are to jointly limit movement or ‘self lockdown’, is crucial as it will determine where the country stands in the statistics in the fight against the relentless COVID-19 pandemic.

It follows the daily cases, which continued to record more than 6,000 cases since May 19, with the highest number of cases at 6,976 reported on Sunday.

Concern over the virus has heightened as the total number of victims who have succumbed to the COVID-19 virus now exceeds 2,300, with the highest number of deaths recorded yesterday (May 24) at 61.

It is not impossible that the death toll will continue to rise, especially with the situation of the use of critical care beds or ICUs across the country, which has now reached 91 per cent as at last Friday.

As the country’s health system is facing a huge crisis, the Health director-general, Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, has repeatedly appealed to the community to jointly break the chain of infections by staying at home if there is no important reason to venture outside.

However, a similar appeal by Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, asking the people to restrict their movement has received a less than welcome reaction among social media users, as the government’s ‘unpopular’ move is viewed to favour the economic sector over people’s lives.

Many parties are hoping for the implementation of the full Movement Control Order (MCO), to help curb the spread of the pandemic. However, the government has decided only to tighten the standard operating procedure (SOP) of MCO 3.0 starting today.

The question is, will this step be able to break the curve and flatten the spread of the COVID-19 virus infection through the stricter SOP of MCO 3.0 during this two-week period?

Touching on this matter, public health expert, Dr Hanafiah Bashirun, is confident that Malaysia can reduce COVID-19 cases by up to 20 per cent within two weeks if the community takes responsibility by restricting self-movement.

In fact, the government’s move to tighten the MCO 3.0 SOP is also the most appropriate action to balance health and economic issues.

He said that during the implementation of the MCO 1.0 in March last year, the country recorded around 300 cases daily at the start, and yet managed to reduce the cases to single digits in six weeks.

“However, when the daily cases reach 6,000, how long will the government have to take to impose a ‘lockdown’? Is two weeks enough, or should it be extended for a month?” he told Bernama.

This is because, according to the latest R-Nought, when the MCO is fully implemented, it will only be able to reduce cases from 6,000 to 4,000, while, at the same time, the measure will put a greater burden on the economic sector, and thus create various other problems, including mental health.

Most worryingly, many sectors of the economy will be affected – especially manufacturing, which will not be able to operate, and is expected to impact job losses as well as income for those affected.

“This will increase cases such as depression, suicide, abuse and sexual harassment. When the government decides to give some flexibility (by not implementing the full MCO), the country can save both health and the economy,”’ he said.

Movement restriction is the most effective measure to reduce the number of infections, but this effort becomes difficult if the community still views compliance with SOP lightly.

This situation can be seen when hundreds of individuals are detained by the authorities for various SOP violation offences daily. For yesterday alone, 800 offences were recorded including no physical distancing, not wearing face masks, not complying with movement restrictions and ferrying extra passengers.

“Taking the example of the recent Aidilfitri celebration, when some people defied the directives by continuing with visiting activities, thus contributing to the increase in cases reported in the community.

“Is it the government’s mistake, or our own doing? If we are to rectify the situation by means of ‘self lockdown’, including not going out without important reasons, or not allowing people to come to the house, we can slow down this pandemic,” he stressed.

Therefore, we should stop pointing fingers when the number of cases continues to increase, instead reevaluate the extent to which efforts have been made to ensure that this deadly virus can be eliminated.