Mistakes will happen, but we must be one step ahead of Covid-19

Lee Boon Chye


MP SPEAKS | We are at a critical time. The Health Ministry has laid down very good and comprehensive flu pandemic guidelines for many years and it is still applicable. They have adhered to these guidelines and should be congratulated for this.

This Covid-19 pandemic is unprecedented in view of mortality and morbidity as well as infectivity. As we enter into the mitigation phase with drastic measures, action and decisions are bound to be deficient and at times mistakes are made, as we are dealing with uncharted territory and an ever-changing scenario. This is why mistakes have also been committed elsewhere in the world including China, US, UK, Italy, Japan, Korea, Iran and many others.

We must accept that mistakes are bound to happen here but most importantly, we have to adjust, adapt and improve along the way as the pandemic evolves.

I still think the movement control order was poorly planned.

We must understand the purpose of all these measures which include:

  1. Preventing imported cases - which was done via restriction of international travel.
  2. Social distancing to reduce transmission - which was done by preventing people from congregating by shutting down activities. 
  3. Discourage travel to avoid spreading to different areas.
  4. To document residents’ movement to enable contact tracing when infection happens.

However, this is what I would have done - we should have followed the US way of restricting gatherings at any one time of 10 people and above. Businesses can go on but at no time should there be more than 10 customers on the premises. More importantly, all these customers must have their identity and contact number documented by business owners during the period. 

Of course, certain activities must be stopped including mass gatherings of any types and businesses like restaurants, entertainment outlets, bars and hawker centres. 

On point number three to discourage travel to prevent the spread of the virus and to enable contact tracing when needed - this is what the police's initial inter-state travel restriction was about which was reversed.

What I would have done is to close off localities with infections so the localities can be disinfected, followed by restricting socialising and physical contact among residents. All residents would also be subjected to documentation (of identity, destination and contact) and medical examination (thermal scanner) when leaving or entering the localities.

I would have also discouraged cross-state travel but the process of registration should be simplified by merely giving the authority a record of identity, destinations or contact via email, online or WhatsApp. This information may not be needed except when there are confirmed Covid-19 cases and need for contact tracing.

DR LEE BOON CHYE is Gopeng MP and former deputy health minister. 

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