Go for alternatives

Dr Madeline Berma

KUCHING: While prioritising the people’s health, the government should not adopt a total lockdown as a way out in view of the spike in new Covid-19 cases in the country.

The country does not have to undergo another lockdown, but the government or the Ministry of Health (MoH) needs to address the problem by looking at other alternatives which are safe for both the people and the economy, said economist Datuk Dr Madeline Berma.

She suggested three alternatives that the government could explore instead of deciding to put the country on lockdown.

“First, the government really needs to expedite the Covid-19 National Vaccination Plan. Our neighbours such as Indonesia and Singapore are already starting to vaccinate their people.

“So, Malaysia should expedite it. We cannot wait until the next one or two months from now to prevent the spread of the virus. Do it as soon as possible,” she pointed out when speaking to New Sarawak Tribune today.

She was asked to comment on the recent news report that in the case where the number of Covid-19 cases does not improve, then Putrajaya will announce an economic shutdown immediately after Feb 4.

The source of the reports came from an internal circular issued by the EU-Malaysia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Eurocham Malaysia) to its members.

According to her, the second alternative is that the government could invest in constructing a one-stop or drive-thru Covid-19 testing facilities similar to that of South Korea’s so that test and tracing can be done quickly.

“We need to expedite tracing to trace the prevalence of the virus. Because right now we are reactive, meaning that what we are seeing now is that the government waits until somebody gets infected or sick, only then test is done.

“Some may say this is expensive, but I don’t think so. This is for the better in the long run as compared to having an economic lockdown,” Dr Madeline stressed.

She added the government must also ensure that the test is cheap so that more people can come forward for testing. 

“Thirdly, we the Malaysian society at large, we need to empower Malaysians to take care of themselves.

Empowering means to educate people aggressively about the need to follow the standard operating procedures (SOPs),” she pointed out.

She said at the moment there were still people violating the SOPs and they were more worried of being caught by the authorities rather than looking at the importance of the SOPs.

“If we look at the Japanese, to them the SOP is so important. To them, they are not worried if they are being caught, but they know that it is their responsibility to take care of themselves, their family and the community.

“Therefore, we do not need a top down approach. Yes, roadblock is one thing, but we also need to empower our community by educating them aggressively so that they follow the SOPs and understand why it is important to do so,” said Dr Madeline.