Malaysia not ready to lift MCO, says medical expert

Police and army activity at a roadblock during movement control order (MCO) April 24, 2020. — Picture by Farhan Najib
Police and army activity at a roadblock during movement control order (MCO) April 24, 2020. — Picture by Farhan Najib

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KUALA LUMPUR, April 26 — Malaysia is not ready to lift the movement control order (MCO), implemented to contain the spread of Covid-19, in the near future due to many issues that still need to be addressed, said senior consultant paediatrician Datuk Dr Amar Singh HSS.

According to the former head of the paediatric department at the Raja Permaisuri Bainun Hospital in Ipoh, Perak, out of the six criteria listed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) with regard to lifting the movement order, Malaysia was still lacking in four aspects—testing and screening, health system capacity, contact tracing and, most importantly, community’s mindset.

(The six criteria listed by WHO are transmission is under control; health systems are able to detect, test, isolate and treat every case and trace every contact; hot spot risks are minimised in vulnerable places, such as nursing homes; schools, workplaces and other essential places have established preventive measures; the risk of importing new cases can be managed; and communities are fully educated, engaged and empowered to live under a new normal.) 

“I do not believe that the general public has fully grasped and adopted all the necessary preventive measures, such as social distancing, to stop the spread of Covid-19. We cannot only have 50 per cent of 70 per cent of people who are compliant.

“To stop the spread of this disease, according to WHO, almost all of society must abide by these measures and take responsibility. I don’t think the public has fully understood this,” he said at the webinar session organised by Science Media Centre (SMC) Malaysia in collaboration with the Malaysian Health Coalition ((MHC) yesterday.

Among the panelists were Universiti Cyberjaya consultant clinical psychologist Assoc Prof Dr Zubaidah Jamil Osman and Science Communication expert and co-founder of SMC Malaysia Dr Mahaletchumy Arujanan.

Commenting further, Dr Amar said the 33 new cases of Covid-19 among patients of influenza-like illnesses (ILI) and severe acute respiratory infections (SARI) in the last two weeks showed that the virus was still spreading within the community.

“What we have yet to understand is that although it is under control, people are still being infected, which means the virus is still spreading from one person to another in our society. If we are not careful, the virus will continue to spread and there will be an even larger second and third wave,” he said.

Dr Amar also shared guidelines produced by the National Early Childhood Intervention Council (NECIC), which among others train teachers and parents on preventive measures which include physical distancing of students in classrooms and school compounds.

“I cannot imagine 40 students sitting in a classroom with one teacher. That is very dangerous. It is unlikely that the disease will be fatal for children nor will they fall severely ill, but they could carry the infection to their parents and grandparents,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dr Zubaidah urged the public to be mentally prepared to accept the new normal post-MCO, including social distancing and staying at home.

She said that it was important to distinguish physical distancing from social distancing and suggested that the public continue to keep in touch with their families, friends and community members through social media and technology. — Bernama

 

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