Press statement by MP for Kota Kinabalu and DAP Sabah Secretary, Chan Foong Hin on 10 January 2021:
Malaysia will be stuck in an endless cycle of lockdown and reopening if the government does not come up with new short term strategies
Malaysia may end up stuck in a vicious cycle between lockdown and reopening if the federal government resorts to blanket lockdowns in dealing with the recent increase in Covid-19 positive cases.
Numerous speculations and rumours being spread around like wildfire on social media regarding the imposing of a Movement Control Order 2.0 (MCO) soon.
Malaysians are now more or less resigned to Prime Minister Muhyiddin announcing further tightening of standard operating procedures (SOP) on Monday, and even perhaps a full-blown lockdown in several states where the numbers of positive cases have been on the rise, including Sabah. A lockdown may be effective in controlling the pandemic, but they are blunt and brutal tools which are definitely not the way forward long term.
Is a lockdown the Perikatan Nasional (PN) federal government’s sole strategy to deal with the increasing cases of Covid-19 nationwide? Don’t they know that this would only lead to Malaysians being stuck in a vicious circle of a lockdown, relaxation, and then another lockdown in the future?
As this pandemic wears on, possibly for months or even years to come, we need a sustainable alternative that involves more targeted measures that are evidence-based and data-driven. We can’t forever turn to lockdowns whenever positive cases skyrockets.
It is no secret that the Malaysian healthcare system is now beyond maximum capacity, and that front-line personnel are exhausted & burnt out. Health Director-General Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah had earlier on 4th January said that the country’s hospitals could accommodate up to 23,000 patients at a time. However, with 24,347 active cases in the country as at 6th January, doesn’t that mean that the healthcare facilities, including isolation and treatment centres, are in fact in full and beyond capacity? Is there anything being done about this?
The relaxation of the SOPs nationwide by the federal government around the end of last year, more particularly to accommodate economic activities had clearly caused an exacerbation of the already bad situation and led to positive cases hitting new highs.
It seems that the strategy employed by the PN federal government has been to relax SOPs as much as they can and to allow the resumption of economic activities whilst waiting to rely on the vaccine which is estimated to arrive in March in containing the spread of Covid-19.
However, it will take 18 months for Malaysia to vaccinate 70% to 80% of the population to achieve the effect of herd immunity as stated by Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation Khairy Jamaluddin.
So, what exactly is the strategy of this PN federal government for this foreseeable 18 months? What are their short-term and medium-term plans to contain the spread of Covid-19? Is Perikatan Nasional going to put us in a cycle of lockdown/reopening in this period of time? That can’t be right. A responsible government should find a way out of this vicious cycle!
No doubt, in order to reopen the economy, close contacts between people will be inevitable. However, such a trend of opening and then reclosing of the country at this time has left everyone confused and being unable to plan for the future.
Last year has been a wasted year. How do we plan for this year so that it won’t end up as a similar waste?
I suggest the following five points that should be the focus of the strategy to combat the spread of Covid-19 in the said 18 months:
1. Political stability
The ruling and opposition parties must reach a consensus to not hold any elections until herd immunity is achieved. For this, PN (especially PBBM) and Umno, both in the ruling camp, must stop attacking each other for political self-interest and even threaten the Prime Minister to dissolve Parliament.
2. Administrative accountability
The ministers and leaders of this PN federal government must show a responsible attitude towards the people, put an end to double standards, and prevent the people from losing confidence in the government in fighting this Covid-19 pandemic.
The Minister of Health who has been missing in action has to be replaced immediately, and that all government MPs who flout rules set by the authorities must be severely punished without dear or favour, including Keningau Member of Parliament Dr. Jeffrey Kitingan who flouted the 14-day quarantine order and attended Parliament, thus putting all other MPs at risk of contracting Covid-19.
3. Massive screening
It is about time the PN federal government listen to the suggestions of medical professionals and start implement large-scale testing and conduct random inspections in all high-risk areas, such as foreign labour dormitories and prisons. The Ministry of Health should also consider the use of cheaper Antigen Rapid Test Kits (RTK-Ag) to carry out large-scale testing, so as to identify the actual situation of the epidemic in these communities, isolate patients as soon as possible and prevent the virus from spreading to other communities.
4. Continuously supervise economic activities
If a supermarket strictly implements SOP to control customer traffic, the spread of Covid-19 can definitely be controlled while business transactions ae being conducted. On the other hand, the outbreak of Covid-19 infections in factories and construction sites was not due to economic activity itself, but the poor living environment of laborers. As such, economic activities should be allowed proceed as usual, but with further supervision and stricter enforcement.
5. Tightening of social activities
Social activities must be further tightened, because close contact and frequent social activities are often the main cause for the sharp increase of Covid-19 positive cases, especially after the festive celebration. As for the upcoming Chinese New Year, I would like to advise against the usual celebration, but to instead celebrate differently from everyone’s own home without going around.
Chan Foong Hin
MP for Kota Kinabalu
DAP Sabah Secretary