Time to weather the storm


Tough situation for all: A electronic billboard raising awareness on the dire situation of the pandemic at a mall in Rawang. — FAIHAN GHANI/The Star

PETALING JAYA: Malaysians are bracing themselves for a possible targeted movement control order in areas with high infection rates as the surge in Covid-19 cases shows no sign of abating.

Companies are also ready to weather the storm, although they are appealing for standard operating procedures that will take the survival of their business into account.

Universiti Malaya epidemiologist Prof Datuk Dr Awang Bulgiba Awang Mahmud said the Covid-19 situation had worsened with intensive care units (ICUs) filling up with Covid-19 patients.

“If the numbers keep increasing at this rate, a targeted MCO is inevitable in areas where the infection rates are high.

“However, it needs to be strictly enforced to have any effect. A half-baked effort will have no effect in bringing down disease transmission, ” he said.

Dr Awang Bulgiba also warned that double standards in SOP enforcement has led to public fatigue and apathy.

He noted that newer variants of the virus, such as the B.1.1.7 variant from the United Kingdom and B.1.351 from South Africa, have been detected in Malaysia.

“More infectious variants will increase the number of new cases. This will overload our already strained public health system. The strain is already showing, and I do not know how long we can cope with these kinds of numbers, ” he said.

Yesterday, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah sounded the alarm that ICU beds in the Klang Valley have on average exceeded 90% occupancy rates.

Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society (MPS) president Amrahi Buang said that Malaysia needs to make full use of the lessons it learnt during the MCO in March last year to curb infections.

“We have had more than a year of experience in implementing various types of MCO. It was devastating for the economy during the first MCO, but after one year we have learnt more.

“Having a targeted MCO is the right approach to take, ” he said, adding, however, that certain places where there were higher infection rates, such as schools, might need to be closed state-wide.

Amrahi added that with the spike of cases in schools and workplaces, the authorities would need to carry out contact tracing and get the vaccination programme running more quickly.

Malaysian Retailers Association president Datuk Ameer Ali Mydin said businesses understand the need for the government to review the current MCO, as well as conditional and recovery MCOs, due to rising Covid-19 numbers.

“But for us, it is better if the government imposed a more targeted MCO instead of a total lockdown, as this will be burdensome for industries and will affect the livelihood of the people, ” he added.

He suggested the government also consider the targeted shutdown of Ramadan bazaars instead of a blanket ban.

“We also hope the government can allow malls to operate but with a strict SOP, ” said Ameer Ali.

Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association president Datuk Jawahar Ali Taib Khan said his association’s members would also abide by the government’s decision.

“However, we appeal to the relevant authorities to allow dine-ins with an SOP. We suggest that the government allow dining in with a maximum of two people per table.

“This would benefit many of us, especially during the month of Ramadan, ” he added.

Malaysian Youth Council president Jufitri Joha said the public may be having mixed feelings about going through another MCO, as well as facing the dilemma of choosing between economic survival and public health.

“We have little option because we are all worried that the situation in the country may turn out like that in India, ” he said.

Some Malaysians online have also expressed concern about the drastic rise of Covid-19 cases in several states and said they were prepared for stricter measures.

Twitter user Pak Long Ismail posted that despite longing to return to his hometown to celebrate Hari Raya, he understands that the country is facing a wide spread of Covid-19.

“Do we want to risk the lives of our loved ones just to satisfy our desire to celebrate Aidilfitri?

“Frontliners, doctors, nurses, police and soldiers all want to celebrate Aidilfitri, ” he tweeted yesterday.

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