MCO can be lifted, but tighten SOP

Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar

KUALA LUMPUR: “MCO, but not like MCO” — That is the perception of the general public on the movement control order (MCO) which is being implemented throughout the country, except in Sarawak.

The issue arose with the implementation of MCO 2.0, which is said to be less successful in beating the Covid-19 transmission, with the cases reaching four figures every day.

Many said it is because of the MCO not being strictly enforced and this has caused concern that if the MCO is lifted, the spread of Covid-19 in the country will become worse.

For Malaysian Public Health Physicians Association president Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar, what is more important is to tighten the standard operating procedures (SOP) so that the spread of the pandemic does not become worse and the goal to reduce the number of cases can be achieved.

“People are angry now because even MCO is imposed, the SOP is not fully complied with, it is as if there is no MCO. In fact, even if there is no MCO, it is alright, but the SOP is necessary, where compliance is vital to flatten the Covid-19 curve,” he told Bernama.

On Jan 25, Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the MCO, which is scheduled to end on Feb 4, would not be extended to avoid negative effects on the country’s economy.

However, the following day, Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the decision whether to impose the MCO more strictly or return to the Conditional MCO (CMCO) would depend on the National Security Council.

Dr Zainal Ariffin said if the MCO is ended and continued with CMCO, social gatherings or any gathering involving a large crowd, and also inter-state travel should be banned.

“Any event held indoor, such as kenduri, feast, birthday celebration that involve many people should not be allowed. Do like what is done in other countries, for example in Singapore, where a maximum of only five people are allowed at a social event.

“Apart from that, make wearing of face mask mandatory, that is, when you leave the house, you must automatically wear the face mask, or face action. Physical distancing should also be a priority, if there are many people gathered in shops or offices, take action,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dr Zainal Ariffin said the government needed to take stricter action against manufacturers, like closing their factories, if there are report of their workers found positive with Covid-19.

“For factories that recorded high number of cases, the government needs to be sterner … in the past, only when it involved thousands of new cases where they ordered to close, but now if a factory records only one or two cases, it should be ordered to close,” he said.

He said the government should also let the people know of its strategies to fight Covid-19, like what was done by US President Joe Biden in releasing a 200-page of strategy to fight Covid-19 on his first day in office.

Dr Zainal Ariffin said the government could also implement the targeted MCO by ‘closing’ states that recorded high number of cases, such as Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Johor.

He cautioned the public that even if MCO is lifted and replaced with other strategies, the estimated number of positive cases would not drop for at least 10 to 14 days following the Covid-19 incubation period.

Sharing Dr Zainal Ariffin’s views is a virologist from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Associate Prof Dr Yahya Mat Arip, who said that what the country needs is targeted MCO, rather than it being implemented nationwide.

“As we are aware of the impact of MCO on the society, especially in terms of economy, but at the same time, we need to deal with the Covid-19 … there is a need to balance these two.

“The authorities have identified several sectors that are ‘hotspots’ to the Covid-19 cases, so it is possible that the MCO can be targeted to these sectors,” he said, adding that an ideal period would be for 14 days.

He said regardless of the implementation of MCO, CMCO or the Recovery MCO, it would be a futile effort to curb the spread of Covid-19 if public awareness is low.

He said implementation of MCO is a physical effort to preventing the Covid-19 virus from finding new “host” (human).

Which is why during the MCO, the government limits the movement and close interaction of ‘hosts’ so that infection to new ‘hosts’ could be prevented, he added.

He said public awareness in complying with the prescribed SOPs is very important.

“We need to look at the society in New Zealand on their compliance with the SOPs and their success. Majority understand the importance in complying with the SOP, but some don’t, and they are the ones that bring problems,” he added.

Therefore, he said, vaccination is the way to deal with the Covid-19 problem in the society, where by making them immune to the disease, the country will have a better chance of curbing the spread of the virus. – Bernama