Covid-19: Urgent fresh measures must be implemented immediately — Social and Economic Research Initiative (SERI)

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JANUARY 8 — Malaysia registered a record high of 3,027 cases yesterday, January 7, 2021. There have been more than 500 deaths with total cases surging to an alarming 128,465. Instituting the necessary measures to curb the spread of the virus must be our primary concern.

Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has prescribed a “targeted” version of the movement control order (MCO) to alleviate the strain on the healthcare system. It is now public knowledge that the upsurge in cases is pushing our healthcare services to breaking point, especially our critical care services.

Comprehensive measures must be quickly implemented in red zones to reduce the spread and protect those who are exposed to high-risk transmission:

1. The government must shut down travel that allows people to travel out of red zones. Selective but quick interventions will allow us to strike a balance between the lives and livelihoods of Malaysians.

2. Additionally, non-essential events and public gatherings should be banned — including those of a political nature. Hosting these non-essential events would only result in unnecessary exposure and will undeniably increase the rate of transmission amongst the attendees.

3. Religious events and festivals must be limited. This includes mass gatherings at places of worship (e.g. Friday prayers and Sunday mass) and placing limitations to travel during the upcoming Chinese New Year celebrations.

4. SOPs must be enforced to the letter across the board. No individual should be exempted from adhering to the SOPs set by the Ministry of Health. One individual is just as susceptible to the virus as the next so the preventative measures set cannot be taken lightly.

5. Pro-active case identification in areas of high risk including factories, construction sites, temporary flood centres and prisons.

6. An amnesty must be declared to enable potentially affected illegal foreign workers to step forward.

7. We must keep schools open as long as possible to reduce the ongoing impact of the pandemic on a whole generation. Although SOPs will be in place, there will undoubtedly be positive cases amongst staff and/or students. These need to be identified early and addressed in a swift but localised manner.

8. Delay any general election until the pandemic is under control. Priority must be to flatten the curve and reduce transmission, even as we await the arrival of the Covid-19 vaccines.

The World Health Organisation has warned that we have a “hard, hard road ahead” in 2021 as it will take many months for the vaccines to turn the tide against the coronavirus pandemic. Herd immunity will only be achieved after many months. The news that we are going to get these vaccines does NOT preclude the need to avoid an unnecessary general election, lift restrictions or to comply with SOPs.

The daily four-digit infection cases call for fresh solutions to be implemented by the Ministry of Health to break the chain of infections. Non-compliance to public health intervention systems will undeniably result in negative economic and societal impact. We are urging for not only quick but also selective or targeted intervention to mitigate the spread of the pandemic.

*Dr Helmy Haja Mydin, respiratory physician and CEO of SERI.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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