Ex-deputy health minister says coronavirus still present, warns of resurgence when businesses resume

In a statement today, Dr Lee Boon Chye cited the national sentinel surveillance of Covid-19 among influenza-like illness or ILI, which he said showed a prevalence rate of 0.63 per cent in the community. ― Picture by Farhan Najib
In a statement today, Dr Lee Boon Chye cited the national sentinel surveillance of Covid-19 among influenza-like illness or ILI, which he said showed a prevalence rate of 0.63 per cent in the community. ― Picture by Farhan Najib

KUALA LUMPUR, April 28 ― Former deputy health minister Dr Lee Boon Chye has today warned of a risk of Covid-19 resurgence in the country, as the Ministry of International Trade and Industry announced earlier that select industries may resume full operations tomorrow.

In a statement today, the Gopeng MP cited the national sentinel surveillance of Covid-19 among influenza-like illness or ILI, which he said showed a prevalence rate of 0.63 per cent in the community.

“The risk of resurgence is real when economic activities resume. Even though the hot and humid weather does dampen the infectivity somewhat but the hope the virus will disappear spontaneously like SARS in 2003-2004 has dissipated, “ he said, referring to the severe acute respiratory syndrome, a viral respiratory illness.

“There is to date no documented effective treatment for Covid-19. Development of vaccine will take at least one to two years. Hence social distancing will be the new-normal even after the movement control order (MCO),” he said.

Dr Lee said that the new normal post-MCO must also include a higher spending budget on public health, especially on Covid-19 mitigation efforts, as the capacity to mitigate is the solely determinant of the government's ability to revive and reactivate the economy.

“This spending on public health is a worthy investment with great returns in societal wellbeing and also in monetary terms.

“Since MCO cost RM2.4 billion per day to the economy, we should  invest at least RM4.8 billion in public health for Covid-19,” he said, adding that RM2.4 billion is needed to invest in test kits, tracking technology, quarantine facilities and logistics.

He said the other RM 2.4 billion should be used to employ 50,000 special healthcare workers at a cost of RM48,000 per person for one year, as the “Covid-19 Team” and to have them deployed nationwide.

Dr Lee said that this move would create employment for 50,000 people immediately and build the capacity for Covid-19 mitigation efforts, as well as to revive the economy.

The announcement by International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali came after the Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MICCI) suggested that the movement control order (MCO) imposed nationwide be lifted with immediate effect for the benefit of the economy, even as Covid-19 has yet to abate.

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