Don’t we have anything better than questionable MCO? ― Center for Market Education

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MAY 5 ― Six districts in Selangor will go under the movement control order (MCO) effective May 6 until May 17. The six districts are: Hulu Langat, Petaling, Gombak, Klang, Kuala Langat and Sepang. The remaining three districts, Kuala Selangor, Sabak Bernam and Ulu Selangor will remain under conditional movement control order (CMCO).

The Center for Market Education (CME) expresses concerns over two main points:

1. Insisting on lockdowns ― or semi-lockdowns ― despite their effectiveness is questioned not only by the results achieved in Malaysia but also by abundant scientific literature published worldwide.

2. The lack of an adequate communication strategy, so that individuals and businesses are left in the dark with regard to the actual content of the so-called MCO 3.0.

A MITI announcement about the SOPs that businesses will have to follow during the new movement restrictions is expected for today (May 5), so that only few hours will be left to take the appropriate measures to organise business activities according to the new regulations.

“Only a deep ‘misunderstanding’ of the driving forces of the market and economic processes can lead to hiccup and confused decisions like the ones that have been followed in the past 15 months”, explained Dr Carmelo Ferlito, CEO of the Center for Market Education. “This will undermine the economic recovery, without achieving any real medical benefit”, he added.

According to CME, the critical points that need to be underlined with regard to MCO 3.0 are the following ones:

1. New restrictions, together with unproper communication, are undermining business mood and expectations. Nothing is worse than uncertainty for businesses and frustration among entrepreneurs may prevail, with the consequence that more firms may decide to close down for good (generating more unemployment), rather than struggling to survive within a hostile environment.

2. Long-term consequences on individuals’ mental health will convert into long-term economic losses for the country.

3. SOPs are communicated with delay and unclarity, up to the point that different ministries are sending conflicting messages. Some SOPs, furthermore, do not make sense: in example, why to wear a mask in a public park when several studies have demonstrated that outdoor and open-air transmission is almost impossible?

4. Defending the current MCO 3.0 as part of a “targeted approach” also demonstrates a poor understanding of what targeted approach means. A targeted approach should not simply be based on geographical considerations but first and foremost on the identification of risk groups. Furthermore, it has been said that 0.2 per cent of the MySejahtera locations are responsible for 90 per cent of the infections: why do not we start a clear strategy from there?

MCOs are regressive, weighing disproportionally on the most fragile segments of the population: only the rich can afford lockdowns.

Police personnel man a roadblock at Bukit Bintang in Kuala Lumpur January 13, 2021. —  Picture by Firdaus Latif
Police personnel man a roadblock at Bukit Bintang in Kuala Lumpur January 13, 2021. — Picture by Firdaus Latif

To the objection that hospital capacity and ICU units are reaching breaking points, the Center for Market Education objects that we are not anymore at the beginning of the pandemic and we have now a greater understanding of the virus dynamics: why have not we invested in more hospital beds and medical equipment, together with research for a treatment, rather than insisting on lockdowns that forced the authorities to deploy resources for generalised subsidies?

CME, therefore, invites the government to radically change its approach and to base it on data and on the latest scientific literature:

1. We need to achieve targeted immunity by deploying a massive test initiative, which means to involve institutions and economic actors in order to test everybody (at schools and workplaces) once a week. Such a strategy would allow a) to detect infections at an early stage, b) to avoid asymptomatic transmissions by early isolation of positive individuals, c) to reduce mortality by identifying positive individuals before the situation gets critical.

2. Strengthen data collection to identify the categories of people with a higher risk of dying because of Covid-19.

3. Implement targeted actions to protect those groups, by enhancing territorial healthcare.

4. Focus on research for home-treatments, like the very effective ones developed by the doctors of the Ippocrate Group.

“I invite everybody to read what a group of doctors from three top world universities wrote in the Great Barrington Declaration. All the key-points for a better strategy are there”, Dr Ferlito concluded.

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

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