Prolonged lockdowns are not effective in handling pandemic, say experts

PETALING JAYA: As most of the Klang Valley goes under the enhanced movement control order, economists and health experts say a lockdown or MCO will not be an effective long-term solution in handling the pandemic.

The Center for Market Education (CME) CEO Dr Carmelo Ferlito believes that a prolonged lockdown will compromise the economic resilience of the country which will impact the future generation.

He suggested that the country should not make a distinction between essential and non-essential services as every business is essential to someone to bring food to the table.

"The government needs to be reminded that economic costs are always human costs too, as the economy is made of human lives and interactions", he said.

Carmelo suggested a shift in strategy where the country should stop focusing on minimising cases, but focus on developing effective treatments to minimise mortality.

"We should open the economy but with compulsory weekly tests, which should be at a massive scale, frequent and affordable, coupled with a tracing software," he said, adding that people should be allowed to return work to earn back their salaries instead of being given monetary aid.

He also emphasised the need for the government to invest in strengthening the healthcare system with temporary hospitals, ICUs equipment and pharmaceutical research.

Universiti Putra Malaysia medical epidemiologist Dr Malina Osman believed that a blanket lockdown would not serve as an ultimate solution in dealing with the pandemic.

She, however, believes it is necessary to have full cooperation from the public to follow standard operating procedures (SOPs).

"I think one of the biggest issues during this pandemic is the misunderstanding on how individuals should implement recommended preventive measures.

"Before the current pandemic, we used to have many activities in groups, many social gatherings and we were free to travel anywhere to get fresh air. During this pandemic, all these routines are no longer available," she said.

Dr Malina pointed out that due to society's inclination to act as if they are in a pre-pandemic era, the recommended SOPs are only practised when a person is alone or meeting unfamiliar faces.

"Therefore, in many situations, most of us who claim to adhere to the procedures, wear face masks, care for hand hygiene or avoid crowds but when we have the opportunity to get together with colleagues, family members, close friends, all these SOPs are almost non-existent," she said, adding that this is the reason why a lockdown is implemented when cases inevitably increase.

Dr Malina emphasised that everyone should implement preventive measures appropriately and treat those not living together as someone who can potentially spread the infection.

She added that this needs to be continuously adhered to even after being vaccinated.

Universiti Malaya epidemiologist Datuk Dr Awang Bulgiba Awang Mahmud said a lockdown is not effective in the long-term without a long-term preventive strategy, which is vaccination.

"Hence, vaccination is key to prevention and control of Covid-19," he said, adding that the vaccination rate should be sped up.

He commended Sarawak's vaccination rate, which is at a much faster pace than Selangor, despite the former facing massive logistical challenges.

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