KUALA LUMPUR, April 9 — Iskandar Puteri MP Lim Kit Siang is leading the call for the authorities to relax the movement control order (MCO), pointing to the stagnating trend in Covid-19 infection cases over the last few days as evidence that some restrictions could finally be lifted.
The proposition came amid concern over the devastation wrought by the pandemic, which has taken a severe toll on the economy. Economists have warned of the adverse ramifications on trade and businesses should the MCO be extended.
“The latest data on the Covid-19 pandemic is a case for lifting of the movement control order (MCO) although with conditions to deal with any resurgence of the virus infection,” the DAP stalwart said in a statement.
“No country can win the war against the Covid-19 virus, until an effective vaccine against it is developed in 12 to 18 months’ time or longer.
“Meanwhile, until an effective vaccine is available, the twin challenges for every country are to win the war against Covid-19 in every wave of resurgence with the minimum loss of lives and to win the war in pandemic economics with the minimum of devastation to the economy.”
The number of Covid-19 infections in Malaysia breached 4,000 yesterday with an increase of 156 new cases, and two new deaths reported, bringing the fatality toll to 65, Health director-general Datuk Seri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah announced yesterday.
But the number of recoveries has for the second time exceeded the number of new cases — with a daily increase of 166 people, bringing the total recoveries to 1,487 cases or 36.1 per cent of total infections.
The data suggests that the second wave outbreak had peaked on April 3 with 3,333 cases, which saw a daily increase of 217 cases, Lim argued. Since then, the infection growth rate has slowed to a daily increase of 150 to 179 cases a day.
“With the daily infection falling below the 200 figure in the last five days, the MCO imposed on March 18 and extended from April 1 to 14 has been successful in both curbing the spread and mortality of Covid-19,” the Iskandar Puteri MP said.
“If this epidemiological curve is sustained, the case for the lifting of the MCO though with conditions to deal with any resurgence of the novel coronavirus, will be irresistible.”
The Opposition has begun to pile pressure on the Perikatan Nasional administration to outline a clear strategy for the coming weeks, as concerns mount over the economic costs of the second phase of the MCO, estimated to be in the hundreds of billions.
Yet, health groups like the Academy of Medicine Malaysia (AMM) have urged the government to extend the order beyond April 14, warning of the contagion risks posed by the resumption of normal life when a vaccine has yet to be developed and events like the exodus of people during Hari Raya celebrations that have the potential to ignite new waves of infections.
The government has yet to provide an exit strategy at the time of writing.
Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the National Security Council will announce tomorrow if the MCO is to be extended, but hinted at some level of loosening for zones with low cases of infections even if the order is to go beyond next week.
Lim and other Opposition leaders seemed to be supportive of the idea, suggesting that restrictions and exit strategies could be planned according to the coloured zones used to mark infection cases.
“The National Security Council and the Ministry of Health should issue a daily release of the current status of each district, and not just the cumulative figures for infections in each district as is the present practice,” he said.
So far, 23 districts have been declared as red zones or Covid-19 hotspots with at least 41 cases, although these use cumulative Covid-19 figures excluding recovered cases.
“If recovered cases are taken into account, we should have far fewer red zones in the country,” Lim said.