Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin today announced the conditional movement control order (MCO) to take effect starting May 4, 2020. This allows for almost all economic sectors, business activities to resume business, subject to conditions and standard operating procedure. It includes all food and beverage outlets that are allowed to open for dine-ins, provided they adhere to conditions set by the authorities. We ask experts to respond to this latest development:
Amrahi Buang, President of the Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society, said:
“We welcome this since MCO has been more than 6 weeks. To move further we must be careful so as not lose the gains. Malaysians have learned the new normal. Since it will be done by soft landing, people are more aware of the consequences. The extended MCO should still be in place at red zones based on villages and residences rather than district or mukim. The empowerment to the committee should be given at community levels. The community leaders should take responsibilities if they want their communities to stay green. In terms of the economy, the proposals by the government are doable. Hence striking a balance with health.”
Prof Dr April Camilla Roslani, President of the College of Surgeons, said:
“Judging by the crowds flocking to markets already, with no physical distancing and no or wrong use of face masks and hand hygiene, we are likely to see a resurgence.”
Prof Dr Pang Yong Kek, Consultant Respiratory Physician, President of the Malaysian Thoracic Society, said:
“The announcement by the government to ease off the restrictions imposed during the MCO has us in the medical field feeling jittery. However, we do understand the need to ease the restriction to prevent a continuous glide in our country’s economy. In view that this is a decision that cannot be back-tracked, the important issue is how do we manage the condition to prevent a third wave of COVID-19. There are countries, e.g. South Korea and Taiwan, which have achieved good success in the disease control without a country-wide lockdown.
“I think the public should be informed that the risk of transmission remains high as many of us still do not have any immunity against the virus. Once the social distancing and MCO are relaxed, transmissions may quickly take place in the community. Hence, until an effective vaccine is produced, the public should be advised to continue social distancing, maintain good hand hygiene and cough etiquette. Recently published data show that the peak of the viral transmission occurs 2 days before symptoms develop. Hence, the importance of wearing face masks in public areas should deserve a strong emphasis, especially in an enclosed environment, e.g. restaurants, offices, shopping malls, etc.
“Ultimately, it is not just the absolute number of new cases that concern us; it is also the question of whether we have adequate information on the index cases, the pattern of spread and the clusters in the community. Once we can master this information and ensure effective tracking can be delivered, the relaxation of MCO may not jeopardise the level of control we have achieved so far. We believe the Government will have the wisdom to continue the surveillance and step up the testing of those who are suspected or had history of contact/travel to the high-risk areas.”
Tee Eng Ong, President of the Malaysian Association of Environmental Health, said:
“My initial thought is it’s a bit too early to begin from the health point of view as there are still 2 digits figure for new cases in the past week, especially in KL. Could have been delayed by another week. Since the PM have already announced it, we must ensure that there should not be any slack in the SOP for all areas under the EMCO. Enforcement of other SOPs for the conditional MCO should be carried out strictly and enforcement activities to be led by all authorised officers under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 348 who are well verse especially the Health Inspectors in the Ministry of Health and the Local Authorities and of aided by other enforcement agencies.”
These experts are members of the Malaysian Health Coalition (MHC) which is a coalition of 42 societies and organisations of health professionals aimed at improving healthcare for Malaysians, strengthening the Malaysian healthcare system and supporting health in all policies.
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