Academics suggest govt lift Covid-19 shutdown in stages

Heavy traffic is seen along the LDP on day eight of the movement control order in Petaling Jaya March 25, 2020. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Heavy traffic is seen along the LDP on day eight of the movement control order in Petaling Jaya March 25, 2020. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, March 25 — The Academy of Professors Malaysia (APM) has proposed the movement control order (MCO) over the Covid-19 pandemic, which has been extended to April 14, to be lifted in stages instead of all at once.

Its president Prof Datuk Seri Daeng Nasir Daeng Ibrahim said the authorities should also communicate the lifting of the MCO in stages clearly and comprehensively to the public in simple language, so that they understand what is going to happen and how it will be carried out.

“To avoid a mass influx of returning workers and patrons, businesses that support essential services should be reopened in the first phase once the MCO has been lifted or when the number of Covid-19 cases has dropped to a number stipulated by the Health Ministry, with continued implementation of social distancing, use of mask and hand sanitisers,” he said in a statement. 

These businesses include motor-vehicle repair shops for all transport vehicles, digital sales and maintenance to service or replace phones, televisions, computers, and television for transmitting official news from the government, and 24-hour food and convenience stores, among others.

“Shopping malls and retail outlets including roadside food stalls and food trucks can be reopened, with strict regulation on the number of shoppers allowed in at any one time.

“All manufacturing and service activities should return to normal production. Construction activities, specifically building and transportation, should also resume,” Daeng Nasir said.

The second phase, once the number of cases has dropped to below five per week or as stipulated by the ministry, is the reopening of all businesses and services, except for mass gathering events and gyms.

“These include the reopening of higher learning institutions, school, nurseries and tuition centres, street hawkers as a source of cheaper food but whose patrons must be educated to continue practicing social distancing to prevent continued transmission.

“Others include various forms of markets (pasar malam, pasar tani, etc) with proper enforcement of social distancing, cinemas with alternate sitting arrangements, and Friday prayers and other religious gathering with practice of social distancing,” he said.

The third phase, in which no new cases have been reported for a period of two weeks or when a cure or vaccine for Covid-19 has been found, is the return to normality with no limitation to size of gathering.

“These include event management that involves large public gatherings such as conventions and concerts, mass religious gatherings and weddings, as well as international travel both inbound and outbound,” Daeng Nasir said.

In addition, APM’s Economics and Social Wellbeing Cluster head Prof Jamal Othman said movement from villages or hometowns back into the cities should also be regulated.

“States with a large number of Covid-19 cases should stay closed to avoid a rebound. Block or regulate the movement of people from these states with a large number of cases or at least delay their return, as directed by the National Security Council.

“For bus stations in towns, these hot spots should have police at the entrance to filter returning workers, to reduce undue large crowds. Those with adequate reason or proof of employment will be allowed to buy tickets, with their particulars to be matched with the bus ticket purchased at the ticketing counter to facilitate contact tracing,” he said.

Jamal added that those travelling in personal cars must be educated to make as few stops as possible to reduce crowds at the rest area.

“Rest and recreation areas cannot be crowded, only takeaways are allowed. There should be guards at toilets and prayer areas to regulate the use and to avoid crowding. In all phases, the enforcement of social distancing should be continued as long as there is no vaccine and a tested and accepted cure for this disease. 

“Guidelines on social distancing should be made available and enforced by occupational safety and health officers or security personnel of companies or buildings. Hand sanitizers should be made available in buildings and temperature checking, where possible,” he said.

Jamal concluded that the wearing of masks should be encouraged, and efforts to educate the public on the proper usage and disposal of masks must be continued.

The MCO’s extension was announced by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin earlier today, who also said the government will also reveal an expanded stimulus package next Friday to boost the country’s economy.

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