As Malaysia appears to have turned a corner in the second wave of Covid-19 outbreak, we must work on a phased lifting of MCO while prepared for a resurgence of the novel coronavirus

Malaysia has reported the lowest number of daily increase of Covid-19 cases in 16 days – a daily increase of 109 cases yesterday, which was the sixth consecutive day that the daily increase has kept below the 200-mark.

I am cautiously optimistic that we have turned a corner in the second wave of the Covid-19 outbreak and look forward to a two-digit daily increase of Covid-19 cases after 26 days of three-digit increases before it tapers off.

As Malaysia appears to have turned a corner in the second wave of Covid-19 outbreak, we must work on a phased lifting of MCO while prepared for a resurgence of the novel coronavirus

Yesterday, the Academy of Medicine of Malaysia urged the government to extend the movement control order (MCO) beyond Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations.

The concern of the Academy of Medicine of Malaysia that the balik kampung exodus during the Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations would undo all the good the four-week MCO had achieved in the invisible war against the Covid-19 pandemic is a valid and legitimate one.

It said “The war against Covid-19 is far from over – many sacrifices have and will continue to be made this year”.

If up to now, Malaysians still think that the war against Covid-19 is over, then we have failed in the information war – which is one of the many wars we must win if we are to survive and prevail over the Covid-19 pandemic.

The question is whether the extension of the MCO beyond the Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations is the best answer to the valid and legitimate concern whether Malaysians understand that the war against Covid-19 is a long and protracted one and that sacrifices have still to be made by Malaysians.

The war against Covide-19 will not be over until an effective vaccine against it is developed in 12 to 18 months’ time or more, and Malaysians must be prepared for a resurgence of Covid-19 at any time, which may have to be fought with resumption of some form of lockdowns like the MCO.

How to deal with national festivities like the upcoming Hari Raya Aidilfitri is not a problem which is faced only by Malaysia but by all countries in the world.

This Easter weekend culminating in Easter Sunday on April 12 is a celebratory occasion for many countries in Europe including those in the front-line of the pandemic, like Italy, Spain, France, Germany and United Kingdom as well as the United States – which has now emerged as the foremost epicentre of the pandemic with 468,008 cases or 29.2% of global total of confirmed Covid-19 cases of 1,602,341 and recording a death toll of 16,649 lives or 17.4% of global death total of 95,643.

Malaysia should learn from the lessons how these countries grapple with the problem of the Easter weekend celebrations in these countries – both success and failure.

In the United Kingdom, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who has left ICU for Covid-19 recovery, has twittered the message: “This Easter, protect your family from #coronavirus by staying at home.”

Authorities around the world are preparing to use curfews, roadblocks, travel bans, surveillance technology and threats of fines and arrests to deter people from travelling and congregating over Easter.

Many governments have already announced tighter restrictions and increased police enforcement in an effort to sustain lockdowns during a holiday period traditionally associated with trips and socialising.

Measures ranging from the draconian to the quixotic – a French mayor has banned sitting on benches – represent a collective warning to citizens who may be tempted to take a break from the restraint of recent weeks.

The common goal is to keep people at home.

In Italy, the authorities have warned the public to stay at home over the Easter break to prevent a spike in new cases and deaths.

To prevent Italians from flouting the lockdown measures, police in Italy are preparing to tighten controls over the Easter weekend, by increasing the number of roadblocks in place and enforcing rules to prevent people from visiting relatives out of town or spending the holiday at their second home.

The Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli will sing on Easter Sunday from empty Milan Cathedral to be streamed online.

Last week, Pope Francis marked a surreal Palm Sunday in an empty St Peter’s Basilica, urging people living through the COVID-19 pandemic not to be so concerned with what they lack but how they can ease the suffering of others.

The service, which kicked off Holy Week events leading to Easter, usually attracts tens of thousands of people to a St Peter’s Square bedecked with olive and palm trees. But this time, it was attended by only about two dozen people, including a few aides, nuns and a scaled-down choir, all practicing social distancing.

In France, about 160,000 police and gendarmes have been deployed across the country to make sure people stay home during what is normally the weekend of the Tour de France’s Grand Départ.

In Germany, authorities in many of the 16 states have said police will patrol autobahns and check whether vehicle number plates correspond to the local area. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for “patience” in the coronavirus crisis, saying that society will have to “live with the virus” until a vaccine becomes available.

In locked-down Spain, the Spanish are finding ways to mark the Holy Week from their homes, by blasting religious music from their balconies or viewing videos of last year’s parades.

In Ireland, the government has given gardaí new powers to restrict people’s movements and gatherings over the next five days. A person cannot leave home without a reasonable excuse such as legal, medical and family obligations, accessing essential services or exercising within 2km of home.

In Australia, police will use cameras and number-plate recognition technology to monitor traffic and patrol caravan parks and other holiday spots.

In Brazil, beach towns along the south-eastern coast are sealing themselves off to prevent an influx of tourists. At least seven towns along the São Paulo coastline have reportedly banned outsiders from entering in the lead-up to Easter Sunday, and anyone who disobeys the order faces having their cars towed or being expelled. It has also converted two major Brazilian stadiums, including the Maracanã – which hosted two World Cup finals, in 1950 and 2014 – into Covid-19 field hospitals as the country braces for a big increase in coronavirus cases.

Extending the MCO beyond the Hari Raya Aidilfitri would mean an extension of the MCO for another five to six weeks and could cause grave economic damage to Malaysia.

The question is whether we should have greater confidence that Malaysians understand that we are fighting a long and protracted multiple war on the information, public health and economic fronts in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Until an effective vaccine is developed, there must be a change in life-styles like social distancing, no handshakes, no balik kampong to visit our parents or the elderly to protect them from the virus unless we are tested negative in Covid-19.

The challenge is how we are to loosen lockdowns and begin rebooting the economy as we cannot shut down the economy until a vaccine is developed.

The solution seems to lie in a phased lifting of the MCO and the policy-makers will have to carry out a phased re-opening of the economy without triggering a new wave of infections, which will lead to a fresh round of lockdowns and yet more economic damage.

One road map of phased lifting of lockdown is to aim to have an intermediate stage in which schools and businesses would reopen but gatherings would still be limited. People would be encouraged to keep at a distance from one another, and those at high risk would be told to limit their time in public. If cases begin to rise again, restrictions would be tightened.

(Media Statement by DAP MP for Iskandar Puteri Lim Kit Siang on Friday, l0th April 2010)

  1. #1 by best4rakyat on Friday, 10 April 2020 - 2:15 pm

    We can summarize here to say under the present COVID-19 pandemic that safety to a life is most important than anything else. You may enjoy festivities now but once we encounter a wider spread of virus furthering the curve upwards then packing anyone into the ‘body’ bag will mean missing you forever for the coming festivities no more.
    Why must we be so emphasizing when life is at risk now?

  2. #2 by drngsc on Sunday, 12 April 2020 - 1:14 pm

    So sorry to be late to this discussion. There is no good medical reason for this 3rd MCO extension. It is a political decision. The DG try to hint at that when he declared that MCOx2 has been effective. The curve has flattened. And most importantly, ( using a medical jargon ), Ro=1. Ro=1, for those in the medical line, simply means that each case can only infect one person. With this covid now in her 3rd month, many have recovered and many have herd immunity. Basically, there is now a population who may be immune against that virus, unlike in March 2020. If DG is correct, Ro=1 will gradually become R0<1. Which in our circle means the disease have less and less host to use to multiply. Basically the disease will die out.
    In answer to best4rakyat's comments, Having MCO extended for 12 calender months will basically have the same outcome, if DG's data is correct. Except that many many poor will suffer. The nation's economy will tank and then poverty may kill more in Malaysia than covid-19.
    A responsible government who wants the best 4 rakyat will make the medically and economically correct decision.

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