Conditional MCO too soon, says Nipah virus scientist

KUALA LUMPUR: While not objecting to the loosening of the movement control order (MCO), a research consultant says the move is being taken too soon.

Universiti Malaya Academician Emeritus Professor Datuk Dr Lam Sai Kit (pic) said the number of cases has not gone down sufficiently for the country to consider being "out of the woods."

He urged the government to listen to the concerns expressed by the various sectors of the population and review the conditional MCO decision.

"There are still too many local transmissions: 95 local transmissions out of 105 new cases on Saturday (May 2)," he said.

“No one is objecting to the loosening of MCO, but the relaxation is far too much and too soon," he said in a press statement on Sunday (May 3).

On Friday (May 1), Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced the reopening of almost all sectors of the economy and business activities, including shopping malls, department stores and even restaurants, beginning May 4.

However, business operators must adhere to new standard operating procedures (SOPs) and guidelines.

Dr Lam also said that the testing capacity was still not adequate compared with other countries, especially using RT-PCR recommended by the Chinese health experts who had an exchange of information with the Health Ministry.

He also said Malaysia had not managed to minimise hot spots and more areas had been put under enhanced MCO.

"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?" he asked.

He expressed concerns that if the country face a resurgence of cases, the MCO would have to be reinstated and what had been undertaken would be wasted.

Dr Lam said that the Malaysian Trades Union Congres secretary-general J. Solomon had urged the PM to delay the implementation of conditional MCO so that there would be more time for employers, workers and consumers to adjust to the new order, while Consumers Association of Penang president

Mohideen Abdul Kader said the government should adopt a soft landing approach as advocated earlier by the Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham.

He also pointed out that the relaxation of MCO had resulted in a whopping 500,000 applications to travel back to their homes from interstate from May 7 to 10.

For the conditional MCO to be successful, it has to be well-planned and not rushed, he said.

While he was aware of the economic cost involved in the implementation of MCO, which had resulted in a total loss estimated at RM63bil since it was implemented, Dr Lam said a better exit plan than conditional MCO was needed, 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 conditional MCO decision.

"In the meantime, people should continue to practise the original MCO regulations (social distancing, stay home, handwashing and personal hygiene, work from home, avoid crowds) and businesses that feel they are not ready to reopen due to safety concern for their workers and customers/clients, should defer their openin, ” he said.

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Lam Sai Kit , MCO , Muhyiddin Yassin


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