‘A necessary inconvenience’

Under close watch: The first day of the enhanced movement control order enforced in Kampung Sungai Penchala took effect yesterday. Health authorities said the strict measure was necessary due to the high infectivity rate at the locality. The restrictions will last until June 23. - IZZRAFIQ ALIAS/The Star

PETALING JAYA: Epidemic experts say that the extension of the lockdown must be made if the government is indeed serious in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.

Universiti Malaya virologist Prof Dr Sazaly Abu Bakar said that the lower number of daily cases should not be a measure to assess whether the lockdown is working.

He pointed out that there has not been much change to the number of daily deaths and number of patients needing ventilators despite the lockdown.

“What we need is a total lockdown of at least three weeks of complete stop to all movements in all sectors.

“We have to look at mortality rates which have not gone down, the number of patients needing ventilators and patients being admitted to ICU are still on the high.

“If we continue with what we are doing and merely reduce the number of testing, we will only be fooling ourselves that the number of cases has indeed gone down, ” said Dr Sazaly, when contacted.

He said everyone must then be prepared to bear the consequences.

“Be prepared to have more crematoriums to operate, hire more gravediggers and have more grave plots. Hospitals (such as Sungai Buloh and Selayang Specialist Hospitals) have run out of places to put the dead bodies.

“What we are doing is merely prolonging the pain. My message to the authorities is, be decisive, ” said Dr Sazaly.

Epidemiologist Professor Dr Moy Foong Ming of Universiti Malaya warned that opening up after

June 14 will see a surge in cases as asymptomatic patients move around the community.

She pointed out that the cases currently reported are from the previous two weeks’ mobility of the people.

She also said that there was still too much movement of people during the lockdown as many economic sectors remained operating.

“The effect of this two-weeks lockdown will only be seen in the next two weeks as the incubation period of the virus is at least 14 days.

Barbed wire has been fixed around the area to contain the movement of its residents.Barbed wire has been fixed around the area to contain the movement of its residents.

“If the government ends the lockdown next week, the rate of transmission will not be reduced.

“To reduce the cases further, we need at least six to eight weeks of lockdown.

“Otherwise, the transmission rate will shoot up again with asymptomatic patients moving around the community.

“The high number of deaths may be due to the virus variants which are more infectious and virulent.

“We should monitor the Covid-19 situation with not only daily cases, but also R0 or Rt, positive rate, number of patients being hospitalised (use of ICU and ventilators) and number of deaths, ” said Moy, when contacted.

She also called for vaccination efforts to be intensified during the lockdown.

“Lockdown is only buying time for the healthcare system to recover from the current overburden, ” said Moy, stating that 100 or so are still dying from Covid-19 daily.

Meanwhile, industry players who had to cut down their operations during the current lockdown said they cannot continue to bear the economic impact.

Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai said the lockdown must move to Phase Two.

Soh said that essential sectors currently allowed to operate must now be extended to include an en-bloc approval of the entire supply chain.

“There are still companies in the supply chain supporting the operations of the essential sectors whose applications to operate have yet to be approved, ” said Soh.

He said that manufacturers from non-essential sectors with smaller workforce should also be allowed to operate at 50% capacity as they also contribute to the national gross domestic product.

“In Phase Two, we ask approval for industries to undertake maintenance of plants and IT servers support, with a maximum of 20% workforce capacity instead of only 10% as currently allowed, ” said Soh.

He also said all movements of containerised and sealed import and export cargo to and from ports, airports and manufacturing warehouses must be allowed during the lockdown.

“Based on the similar situation in the first movement control order last year, the failure to allow companies to clear import shipments from ports and export shipments from factory warehouses to meet shipment deadlines will lead to port and airport congestion, ” said Soh.

He said these industries will then have to incur many costs in the form of detention, demurrage charges and booking cancellation fees.

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