KUALA LUMPUR: “MCO, but not like MCO” – That is the perception of the general public on the movement control order (MCO) which is being implemented throughout the country, except in Sarawak.
The implementation of MCO 2.0 is said to be less successful in beating the spread of Covid-19 with the number of cases reaching four figures every day.
Many believe it is because the MCO is not being strictly enforced and this has caused concern that if the MCO is lifted, the spread of Covid-19 in the country will become even worse.
For Malaysian Public Health Physicians Association president Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar, what is more important is to tighten the standard operating procedures (SOP) so that the spread of the virus does not become worse and the goal of reducing the number of cases can be achieved.
“People are angry now because even with the MCO in place, the SOP is not fully complied with. It is as if there is no MCO.
“In fact, even if there is no MCO, it is alright, but the SOP is necessary, where compliance is vital to flatten the Covid-19 curve,” he told Bernama.
On Jan 25, health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the MCO, which is scheduled to end on Feb 4, would not be extended to avoid negative effects on the country’s economy.
However, the following day, senior minister for security Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the decision whether to impose the MCO more strictly or return to the conditional MCO (CMCO) would depend on the National Security Council (MKN).
Zainal said if the MCO is ended and continued with CMCO, social gatherings or any gathering involving a large crowd, and also inter-state travel should still be banned.
“Any event held indoors, such as kenduri, festival, birthday celebrations that involve many people should not be allowed. Do like what is done in other countries, for example in Singapore, where a maximum of only five people are allowed at a social event.
“Apart from that, make the wearing of face mask mandatory, that is, when you leave the house, you must automatically wear the face mask, or face action. Physical distancing should also be a priority, if there are many people gathered in shops or offices, take action,” he said.
Meanwhile, Zainal said the government needed to take stricter action against manufacturers, like closing their factories, if there are reports of their workers found to be Covid-19 positive.
“For factories that have recorded a high number of cases, the government needs to be stricter.
“In the past, only when it involved thousands of new cases were they ordered to close, but now if a factory records only one or two cases, it should be ordered to close,” he said.
He added that the government should also let the people know of its strategies to fight Covid-19, like what was done by United States President Joe Biden in releasing a 200-page document on his administration’s strategy to fight Covid-19 on his first day in office.
Zainal said the government could also implement the targeted MCO by “closing” states that have recorded a high number of cases, such as Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Johor.
He cautioned the public that even if MCO is lifted and replaced with other strategies, the estimated number of positive cases would not drop for at least 10 to 14 days following the Covid-19 incubation period.
Sharing Zainal’s views is a virologist from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Dr Yahya Mat Arip, who said that what the country needs is targeted MCO, rather than it being implemented nationwide.
“We are aware of the impact of MCO on society, especially in terms of the economy. However, at the same time, we need to deal with the spread of Covid-19. There is a need to balance these two.
“The authorities have identified several sectors that are ‘hotspots’ for Covid-19 cases, so it is possible that the MCO can be targeted to these sectors,” he said, adding that an ideal period would be for 14 days.
He said regardless of the implementation of MCO, CMCO or the Recovery MCO (RMCO), it would be a futile effort to curb the spread of Covid-19 if public awareness is low.
“The implementation of MCO is a physical effort to prevent the Covid-19 virus from finding new ‘hosts’.
“Which is why during the MCO, the government has limited the movement and close interaction of ‘hosts’, so that the infection to new ‘hosts’ could be prevented,” he added.
He said that is why public awareness in complying with the prescribed SOPs is very important.
“We need to look at New Zealand and their compliance with the SOPs and their success. The majority understand the importance of complying with the SOP, but some don’t, and they are the ones that bring problems,” he added.
Yahya also said that vaccination is the way to deal with the Covid-19 problem in society, that is by making people immune to the disease, the country will have a better chance of curbing the spread of the virus.
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