[MEDIA RELEASE] Conditional Movement Control Order: Too much, Too Soon – Nipah Virus Scientist

Prof Dr Lam Sai Kit is a renowned medical virologist who was a central figure in the discovery of Nipah virus - Internet Pix/Merdeka Award


3 May 2020

The announcement on Worker’s Day, 1 May 2020 by our Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, on reopening the economy by relaxing some restrictions under the MCO through the implementation of the conditional MCO, was greeted by cheers from many and concern by some. It is not surprising that the news was welcome by businesses who have been suffering economically, and those who felt the pressure of the lockdown since 18 March.

“No one is objecting to the loosening of MCO, but the relaxation is far too much and too soon.” “Almost all sectors of the economy and business activities, including shopping malls, department stores and even restaurants, will be allowed to operate under new SOPs and guidelines, with effective from Monday, 4th May.”

“The number of Covid-19 cases is still high, and as if to emphasize this, the number of cases soared to three digits yesterday”.

Questioning that Malaysia has met the WHO criteria, the number of cases has not gone down sufficiently for us to consider us out of the woods. There are still too many local transmissions (95 local transmissions out of 105 new cases yesterday, 2 May). The testing capacity is still not adequate as compared to other countries, especially using RT PCR as recommended by the Chinese Health Experts before they left the country. We have not managed to minimize hot spots and more areas are put under EMCO. With the relaxation of MCO, there is every likelihood of a surge of new clusters and cases. Can we really cope with increased testing and contact tracing? Can we empower and engage the community to do their part in preventing the spread of the coronavirus? 

If we face a resurgence of cases, we will then have to reinstate MCO again. “What a waste of efforts put in by the government, the frontliners and the public.”

Even states like Sarawak and Kedah (declared a green zone state with no active Covid-19 cases) have reservations, and decided not to implement CMCO for now. MTUC Secretary-General, J. Solomon, urged the PM to delay the implementation of CMCO so that there will be more time for employers, workers and consumers to adjust to the new order. Consumers Association of Penang president, Mohideen Abdul Kader, said the government should adopt a soft landing approach as advocated earlier by the Health DG (and not a crash landing).” The relaxation of MCO has resulted in 500,000 applications to travel back to their homes from interstate from May 7-10.

The concern over the CMCO over the premature lifting of restrictions has spilled into the general population and a group calling itself Rakyat Malaysia Prihatin (Concerned Malaysian Citizens) has put up a petition on Change.org where a signature drive has gathered momentum since it started on Saturday, 2 May. “To date, over 300,000 signatures have been collected in just 17 hours.” 

“I added my signature to this petition out of concern for public safety and the risk and fear of a resurgence. For the CMCO to be successful, it has to be well-planned and not rushed. I am well aware of the economic cost involved in the implementation of MCO which has already resulted in a total loss estimated at RM63 billion since the implementation of MCO. However, we need a better exit plan than CMCO, with phased opening of sectors or businesses and with emphasis on safety rather than a fast economic recovery.”

“I urge the government to listen to the concerns expressed by the various sectors of the population and review the CMCO decision. In the meantime, people should continue to practice the original MCO regulations (social distancing, stay home, handwashing and personal hygiene, work from home, avoid crowds, etc), and businesses that feel they are not ready to reopen due to safety concern for their workers and customers/clients should defer their opening.”

Two eminent epidemiologists, Prof. Datuk Dr. Awang Bulgiba Awang Mahmud and Dr. Malinda Osman are also in support of a better exit plan (NST, 2 May 2020).

Statement by :

Academician Emeritus Professor Dato’ Dr. Lam Sai Kit Senior Fellow, Academy of Sciences Malaysia And Research Consultant, Universiti Malaya.

**All previous posts about COVID-19 here: https://sciencemediacentremalaysia.com/tag/covid-19/

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