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MP SPEAKS | We can't return to the pre-Covid-19 world even after MCO lifted

MP SPEAKS | Today marks the end of the four-week-old movement control order (MCO) and the beginning of the second extension of the MCO until April 28.

The most important lessons of the MCO are that Malaysians must learn to live with Covid-19 virus for the next 12 to 18 months or more until an effective vaccine is developed and widely available and social distancing is the most important new normal in the post-pandemic era, not only in Malaysia but in the world, whether in economics, politics or social life.

Life in Malaysia or the world cannot return to the pre-Covid-19 pandemic world even after the lifting of the MCO.

We should have been spared the second wave of the Covid-19 outbreak as the first wave of the outbreak only registered single-digit daily increases and reached a total of 22 cases from Jan 24 to Feb 16.

In the ten days from Feb 16 – 26, there were no new cases of Covid-19.

We must learn the expensive lesson of our inattention and negligence which allowed the second wave of the Covid-19 outbreak to take place and caused the imposition of the MCO on March 18.

Hopefully we have passed the peak of the second wave of the Covid-19 outbreak, as with the imposition of the MCO, we have avoided the worst prognosis made by JP Morgan and the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (Mier).

Instead of the second wave of Covid-19 outbreak peaking at about 6,300 cases in mid-April, there was no exponential surge because of the MCO and it peaked on April 3 with 3,333 cases.

Since then, the curve has plateaued with daily increases ranging from 109 to 184 cases – and in the two weeks to April 28, we hope to see the daily increases to further reduce to two-digit and even single-digit figures.

According to the Health Ministry director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah (photo) a few days ago, Malaysia’s infective rate, Covid-19 R0, was 3.55 prior to the MCO (where a positive case would have an infection rate of 3.55 persons) which has been brought down to 1 and he expects the R0 will be 0.9 by April 14.

The Health Ministry director-general and frontliners fighting the invisible war against the coronavirus must be commended for ensuring the effectiveness of the MCO in breaking the chain of Covid-19 infections by bringing Malaysia’s R0 down to 0.9. We must now bring the R0 further down below 0.9.

But we must also be prepared for new waves of Covid-19 outbreak until an effective vaccine is developed in 12 – 18 months or more.

In the meantime, Malaysia must constantly learn from other countries in the handling of Covid-19 pandemic, particularly in how to strengthen our public health infrastructure to protect our frontliners and to ramp up Covid-19 testing, tracing and treating capabilities.

On the international front, there is both good and bad news.

In the United Kingdom, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (photo) has been discharged from the intensive care unit (ICU) after being treated for three days for Covid-19, but he will not immediately return to work as he has yet to completely finish his recovery.

In a video, Johnson paid tribute to the medical workers with the National Health Service (NHS), saying: “I owe them my life.”

However, it is bleak times for the UK as the total Covid-19 death toll rose above 10,000 on Easter Sunday and chalked up another 717 deaths in the past 24 hours to make the UK one of the big five countries with total death toll exceeding 10,000 deaths. There are now seven countries which have surpassed China’s total death toll of 3,341, namely:

  • United States 23,555 deaths (five percent death rate)
  • Italy 20,465 deaths (12.8 percent)
  • Spain 17,756 deaths (10.4 percent)
  • France 14,967 deaths (10.9 percent)
  • United Kingdom 11,329 deaths (12.8 percent)
  • Iran 4,585 deaths ( 6.2 percent)
  • Belgium 3,903 deaths (12.8 percent)

The prospects in the UK become all the bleaker with the government forecast that Britain risks having the highest death toll from the novel coronavirus in Europe in the region of 30,000 deaths.

Among the 119,410 people in the world who had died with coronavirus are doctors, nurses, surgeons, care workers, healthcare assistants and porters, including doctors and nurses who came out of retirement to fight the invisible war against Covid-19.

There is growing criticism in the UK against the government’s response to the pandemic from senior medics and political leaders, particularly over its failure to get enough personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing to National Health Service (NHS) and care home workers.

We must learn from the tragic lessons in the UK, the US, Italy, Spain, France and other countries to strengthen our public health infrastructure to protect our frontliners to ensure they are provided with the necessary PPE and to ramp up Covid-19 testing, tracing and treating capabilities to ensure that they do not become casualties in the invisible war against the coronavirus.

The grim milestones on the international front in the Covi-19 pandemic include:

1. The global total of confirmed Covid-19 cases now stands at 1,851,573 with 114,175 deaths. It took 91 days from the first reported case to reach the first million mark, and it will take two weeks to reach the second million mark some time today. Six countries now surpass China's 82,160 confirmed cases:

  • US 584,862 cases
  • Spain 170,099 cases
  • Italy 159,516 cases
  • France 136,779 cases
  • Germany 129,207 cases
  • UK 88,621 cases

2. The US has become the foremost epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic, recording 584,862 confirmed cases, with 23,555 deaths. It registered the first case of Covid-19 as South Korea on January 20, but the latter has kept its confirmed cases to 10,537 cases and 217 deaths, setting the gold standard of flattening the curve.

The state of New York has also established a tragic milestone, as it has more Covid-19 patients than any country in the world, aside from the United States. The state's total of 188,694 cases is higher than Spain's (170,099 cases) and Italy's (159,516), countries with populations many times larger than New York.

The disease is killing New Yorkers disproportionately. Of the 23,555 deaths in the US, 9,385 or 40 percent, have occurred in New York. Its mortality rate is 4.9 percent, compared with four percent in the rest of the country

3. In the Asean region, the Philippines has overtaken Malaysia in having the most number of confirmed Covid-19 cases: 4,932 cases with 315 deaths as compared to Malaysia’s 4,817 cases with 77 deaths. Third is Indonesia with a total number of 4,557 Covid-19 cases with 399 deaths.

LIM KIT SIANG is MP for Iskandar Puteri.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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