Experts concerned over Malaysians’ attitude towards virus risk


  • Nation
  • Thursday, 18 Jun 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: Health experts are concerned that some Malaysians are behaving as though there is no more Covid-19 after the country’s shift to recovery movement control order (MCO) and they have warned that the impact is expected to be seen as early as these few days if no precautions are taken.

Former deputy director-general Prof Datuk Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman said that with the easing of interstate travel as the country moved into recovery stage on June 10, new cases were expected to emerge as early as one week after that as the incubation period ranged from four to 14 days.

Academy of Medicine of Malaysia master Prof Dr Rosmawati Mohamed said that from her observation in public areas and on social media, people were behaving as though there was no pandemic.

“There are increased social activities but people are not taking proper precautions such as wearing face masks and adopting physical distancing.

“Every individual should continue taking precautions. We are not out of the woods yet, ” she cautioned.

She said it was of particular importance that people take precautions when going out for meals or socialising in restaurants and at other enclosed spaces.

She also said those who wish to balik kampung must be mindful of potentially exposing the elderly and those with underlying health problems to a higher risk of getting severe Covid-19.

Consultant anaesthesiologist Prof Dr Chan Yoo Kuen warned of another possible lockdown if Malaysians let their guards down, as seen in China after a second Covid-19 wave emerged.

“Malaysians are behaving as if the country has zero Covid-19 cases, ” she noted.

She highlighted that asymptomatic cases posed a concern.

“The rate of testing around the world is still low, so we do not have a clear picture of asymptomatic cases and how this may affect spread.

“Currently, the number of active cases in Malaysia is still manageable but if a second wave occurs following undetected cases exploding exponentially, it may not be so easily controlled, ” she said, adding that Malaysia should avoid reaching the levels seen in the UK, Italy or Spain.

Dr Chan said Malaysia could be an example for the rest of the world as it had done extremely well to control the situation locally but the nation must continue to do so.

“We must not forget the lessons learned from the last three months when we moved as a country alongside the rest of the world, away from potential disaster, ” she said.

Malaysian Public Health Medicine Specialist Association president Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin said Malaysia should watch out for new spikes and clusters in the next few days.

“Malaysia need not worry too much about sporadic cases as it is expected and a sign of controlled community infection, but Health Ministry must increase surveillance capacity to detect and do contact tracing quickly to prevent spread to larger and high-risk groups, ” he said.

He urged people to report to the authority if someone in their households or neighbourhoods had been suspected of Covid-19.

To prevent another wave of Covid-19, the community should avoid crowded places and be cautious especially among undocumented foreign workers, he said.

Even in recovery MCO stage, Dr Zainal said people should carry on with the new normal diligently.

“If possible, stagger the visits among family members to avoid overcrowding at the house, ” he added.

Dr Lokman Hakim said the feared spike might not happen if people complied with physical distancing, practised good hand hygiene and wore face masks.

“We need to be vigilant and act fast if there are suspected cases, and re-enforce localised enhanced MCO if need be, ” he said.

He pointed out that rapid and effective response by Health Ministry was key in effective control.

The public health professor said Malaysia’s capacity to treat cases and quarantine exposed or suspected cases was now high.

“Even if it goes back to the peak level during MCO, I think we should be all right as the Health Ministry is prepared for more than that, ” he said.

He added that with public compliance, the number of cases should not exceed the initial projected 6,000 (JP Morgan) and not even the 1,200 cases per week during MCO.

Dr Lokman Hakim said it was difficult to prevent another wave of Covid-19 without a vaccine, unless borders were closed and MCO was imposed for a long period but the people would not survive the economic collapse.

“We need to be pragmatic and learn to live with Covid-19, ” he said.

On people visiting family members living in another house, staying overnight and not observing physical distancing, he said this would pose a risk if the visitors were from Covid-19 active transmission areas such as the Klang Valley but the risk was low if they were from non-active areas.

“There is a need to assess the risk and manage the risk.

“If they fall sick a week or so after the visit, they should quickly go for a check-up, ” he advised.

He reiterated that individuals and community should be socially responsible.

“You can relax but have self-discipline, ” he said.

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