‘Strict enforcement definitely needed’

A patron getting his temperature checked, adhering to the Covid-19 SOP compliance.

PETALING JAYA: A year after Covid-19 struck, Malaysia is fighting hard to find the right balance between stemming the surge in cases and keeping the economy alive.

With the second movement control order enforced in most states, health experts say the standard operating procedure must be adhered to strictly to reduce cases.

The Health Ministry revealed that MCO 2.0 may not be extended beyond Feb 4, as prolonging it could be detrimental to the country’s economy.

Leeway has also been introduced, including allowing married couples living apart to travel interstate starting yesterday.

However, Universiti Malaya epidemiologist Prof Datuk Dr Awang Bulgiba Awang Mahmud said restrictions were not enforced strictly and speedily to limit the spread of the third wave, which started in Sabah.

“If you look at Sabah, the current wave basically started there last September.

“We are in the fifth month of the Sabah third wave and still seeing hundreds of new cases every day.

“Even the current numbers are an underestimate in my opinion, as the discovery of positive cases is dependent on the number of people being tested, ” he said, stressing the need for stricter enforcement.

Even though Malaysia is expected to receive Covid-19 vaccines next month, it will take time to see the positive effects, cautioned health experts.

Universiti Putra Malaysia’s consultant clinical microbiologist Prof Dr Zamberi Sekawi emphasised that based on current evidence, Covid-19 vaccines may not stop infections but prevent the risk of developing severe conditions and complications from the coronavirus.

“Even though people are vaccinated, they can still get the infection but they’ll be healthy or encounter only mild symptoms.

“Every individual has to play a role in stopping the spread of the virus, ” said Dr Zamberi, “such as wearing face masks.”

Malaysian Medical Association president Datuk Dr M. Subramaniam said that as viruses can mutate, some may need vaccinations every year.

“But it is still human behaviour that drives transmission. Even after the population is inoculated, we will still need to observe SOP for a time, ” he said.

Dr Subramaniam hopes to see a drop in serious cases of Covid-19 by mid-year, as healthcare workers, the elderly and people with severe disease will be vaccinated from March to May.

He, however, cautioned that many Malaysians are not aware of their health status, which could put them at risk of developing severe symptoms.

“Malaysians need to schedule a regular checkup with general practitioners to find out their health status, ” he said.

Dr Subramaniam also urged the Health Ministry to go back to testing all close contacts of positive Covid-19 cases and rope in private general practitioners to assist in the effort.

“Most importantly, the government must urgently address the living conditions of foreign workers.

“Another surge is imminent if we continue to ignore this longstanding issue, ” he said.

He advised the government to embrace advanced technology and robotics, which could reduce the country’s reliance on migrant workers and also allow more people to work remotely.

“Failure to come up with a long-term solution could result in repeated MCOs with a disastrous effect on the economy, ” he said.

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