[EXPERT REACTION] Should the MCO be extended?

Checks during MCO - @PDRMsia / Twitter

In less than 24-hours, the government will announce whether the Movement Control Order (MCO) will be extended. The first phase of the MCO, which was enforced on March 18-31 was extended until April 14. Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is expected to announce the decision on further extensions on Friday, April 10. Anticipating the announcements, we asked experts:

Should the MCO be extended?


Amrahi Buang, President of the Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society, said:

“MCO should extend to ensure that the spread of the virus is cut off. The government should prepare Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to manage the different zones – the green to remain green, the yellow to turn green, the orange to become yellow, and the red turn to orange. We want communities to aim to improve their zone status so that they are not restricted under the MCO. SOPs should reward communities rather than punish them.”

Associate Professor Dr Husni Jamal, President of the Academy of Family Physicians of Malaysia, said:

“MCO needs to be extended because:

  • Although the number of daily cases may seem to plateau, but the death rate does not show the same pattern
  • There is a need for increased detection by way of testing as well as surveillance
  • However, public health measures under the MCO needs to be balanced by adaptive social strategies
  • Essential services need to carry on
  • There is a need to encourage community resilience and social networking
  • The negative economic impact of MCO needs to be limited
  • At the end of the day, it is the level of civic-consciousness of each and every citizen that is important.”

Dato Dr Jahizah Hassan, President of the College of Anaesthesiologists said:

“MCO must be extended because:

  • Our testing approach is targeted because of limited capacity
  • Almost all the designated red zone areas are tested and quarantined
  • Many might be positive but asymptomatic and therefore, be a potential spreader to the most vulnerable including their own family members 
  • The data is not a true reflection of the current situation especially with many test results still pending
  • There are serious implications including an exponential spike if the MCO is lifted now
  • Lifting of the MCO can be considered once more widespread testing is done, i.e. once the 16,500 tests per day target is reached.”

Professor Dr Marzida Mansor, President of the Malaysian Society of Anaesthesiologists, said:

“MCO must be extended because:

  • The data is not transparent
  • Almost all the designated red zone areas including the total lockdown of Menara City One, Selangor Mansion and Malayan Mansion are almost exclusively where foreigners/ immigrants live. Yet almost all who died are Malaysians. How is this possible? The data doesn’t add up
  • Graphs derived from skewed or opaque data will have serious implications including an exponential spike if the MCO is lifted now

Dr Ramli Tahir, President of Pertubuhan Doktor-doktor Islam Malaysia (PERDIM), said:

“I think partial MCO and social distancing is still required. Looking at the number of infections, it is much more stable now, especially from the tabligh group. The potential risk from overseas is under control because of compulsory quarantine. Schools and universities should still close. Businesses should continue to close at 7 but other services will be allowed to open gradually. There will still be EMCO in certain hotspots. Mosques should still be closed.”

Associate Professor Dr Tuti Ningseh Mohd Dom, President of the Malaysian Association for Dental Public Health Specialists, said:

“MCO should continue because:

  • We have not reached our peak yet based on predictions made by JP Morgan and Malaysian Institute of Economic Research report
  • There is still a high number of pending test results
  • We need to ensure maximum impact on the break of infection
  • Appeal for authorities to strengthen borders (sea and land) security
  • There is an unknown number of asymptomatic cases in the community at large
  • There is an influx of Malaysians coming back from overseas
  • Malaysians will want to balik kampung as Ramadan and Hari Raya, as well as Pesta Kaamatan and Hari Gawai approaching.”

Statement from the Academy of Medicine Malaysia:

“The current Movement Control Order must continue beyond the current Phase 2 period ending on 14 April 2020. For public health reasons, the ban on non-essential interstate travel must continue leading up to and beyond Hari Raya Aidil Fitri, which is expected to fall on 24 May 2020. Other celebrations such as Hari Gawai and Harvest Festival will also follow soon after this period.

Responsible behaviour in adhering to social distancing measures is required of everyone until a vaccine is made available. For this year at least, be it Ramadhan, Aidil Fitri or even Haj gatherings – there is a need for control, monitoring and possible banning of these gatherings.

A premature withdrawal or excessive relaxation of MCO restrictions will potentially undo all the good that has been achieved from staying home these past four weeks.”

These experts are part 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.

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

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