KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 3 ― Although Covid-19 cases in the country are on the rise, health experts believe another lockdown would decimate the nation's already-fragile economy.
Instead, they suggest the government take a few alternative steps.
Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Professor Datuk Dr M. Subramaniam told Malay Mail a temporary ban on interstate travel would not be a bad idea seeing how many returnees from Sabah are positive for Covid-19 with cases reaching the high 200s since Thursday.
“MMA strongly feels the government should look into imposing certain restrictions on interstate travel for a period as a precautionary measure.
“Returnees from Sabah during this time must ensure that they strictly adhere to the quarantine and SOPs. These two weeks will be crucial in preventing another MCO,” added Dr Subramaniam.
Malaysia had 287 yesterday (the highest daily total since June 4) mostly from Sabah and Kedah while Selangor continues to add cases as well.
Almost all cases detected recently are locally transmitted cases.
Health director-general Tan Sri Noor Hisham Abdullah has repeatedly reminded the public that the virus is in the community and if a particular place has a high rate of infection, like Bangau-Bangu, that means more people in the community have the virus but have not been tested.
The last time Malaysia had to impose a lockdown or movement control order (MCO), Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the government lost RM2.4 billion every day business was suspended.
Dr Khor Swee Kheng, who is part of a support group Malaysian Health Coalition, also agreed a lockdown may not be the only solution and preferred the government refine their targeted enhanced MCO (TEMCO) instead.
“Malaysia cannot sustain the cost of a second nationwide lockdown, as there will be worse financial, economic and psychological damage,” Dr Khor said.
“Our policy of targeted and localised TEMCOs have proven to work well, most recently in various parts of Kedah. As we learn lessons from the first nine months of fighting Covid-19, we must refine the TEMCO approach so that we can control the disease while limiting the cost of doing so.”
Currently there are TEMCOs in place in only four districts ― Semporna, Lahad Datu, Tawau and Kunak in Sabah. The entire state of Sabah has also been barred from inter-district travel from October 3 to 16.
Respiratory physician Dr Helmi Haja Mydin noted that a lockdown at this time would be impractical due to the reasons mentioned above.
The economic fallout would result in job losses and as such the government needs to find that right balance between public safety and economic interests.
“There is always a need to balance public health with economic interests. I do not think that a nationwide lockdown will be practical.
“It would make more sense to identify clusters early and move in quickly to limit potential contagion.
“With this in mind, flexibility and agility is key ― there may come a time when halting interstate travel in Semenanjung is necessary and if that happens, we will need to be prepared for it,” said Dr Helmy.
At present, Malaysia has recorded 11,771 positive cases with 10,097 recoveries. There have been 136 deaths and 1,540 active cases.