Carrot or stick? The choice is yours, says Health DG

Hariz Mohd

Modified 24 Mar 2020, 1:51 pm

CORONAVIRUS | The time may have come for the authorities to use their power for stricter enforcement of the movement control order (MCO), said Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.

He said the Health Ministry has a small chance to break the chain of infections and it requires every Malaysian to play a role by staying home, but some are not complying.

Speaking at a press conference on Covid-19 today, he said the Health Ministry (MOH) had tried to use the 'carrot approach' to coax the public to stay at home during MCO, which is aimed at breaking the chain of the virus infection.

"We’ve tried using the carrot (approach) first. I have been using carrots for the last couple of weeks, but perhaps it is time for us to use sticks," he said.

"So the choice is with the public," Noor Hisham added.

He was responding to a question on the soft approach used by the authorities in enforcing MCO, which has entered its seventh day today.

Improved compliance

The police have said that they are going to apply the approach of advising the public into staying at home, but might opt for a stricter approach if many still failed to comply with the order.

During the first day of the MCO, the government estimated that the level of compliance was only at about 60 percent, and had since increased gradually.

On Sunday, Defence Minister Ismail Sabri said police reported that the level of compliance has increased to 90 percent, but stressed that it was still not enough as 10 percent non-compliance translates to 3.2 million people.

Earlier today, he said the rate increased to 95 percent.

During the press conference today, Noor Hisham was asked whether the ministry speculated the situation in the country to turn worse like what is happening in Italy, which has so far recorded over 6,000 deaths, surpassing the death toll in China.

To this, he said: "It is not up to the Health Ministry. The question is for you (the public).

"It depends on you now. If you follow our instructions, stay at home, practice handwashing, then we have a small window of opportunity to break the transmission of the virus.

"But if you do not follow our instructions, the virus will continue to spread," he warned.

No transmission in Covid-19 wards

Noor Hisham said the authorities would have to study the impact of the MCO, which is now effective for two weeks until March 31.

Any decision whether to prolong the order or for a total lockdown to be imposed would depend on the report.

Meanwhile, on the ministry's healthcare workers infected by the virus, Noor Hisham said none of them worked at Covid-19 wards or intensive care units.

According to him, so far none of the frontline personnel had contracted the virus from the patients.

"Perhaps that is the safest place (the Covid-19 wards). You know why? Because all our healthcare workers use personal protective equipment. So they are protected," he said.

Noor Hisham said some of the personnel got infected from attending mass gatherings, while there were also cases of infection caused by patients who failed to disclose their history when seeking non-Covid treatments.

Keep up with the latest information on the outbreak in the country with Malaysiakini's free Covid-19 tracker.