Conditional MCO might cause third wave of infections, say health experts

(FMT) – Health experts are voicing concern over the move to ease the movement control order (MCO) by allowing businesses to reopen starting next week, warning that this might lead to new waves of Covid-19 infections.

Azrul Mohd Khalib, the executive director of the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy, said people might be confused over the standard operating procedures (SOP) given the short time frame for preparation, warning also of non-compliance by others.

“This could result in Malaysia lurching from this MCO to another one a few months later,” he told FMT.

Adding that Putrajaya had made an abrupt departure from the current MCO instead of sharing a clear and coherent plan of action, he said it would have been better if the announcement had been made after May 12, when the latest extension of the MCO is scheduled to end.

“That would have given at least a week for preparation.”

Comparing Putrajaya’s announcement today to its initial announcement of the MCO prior to March 18, he said that first decision had caused chaos due to its short notice and lack of understanding on the part of the public.

This was the case “even among the authorities who were expected to enforce the MCO”, he added.

For this latest move, he said, SOP should be made easily accessible on a single website for public reference and use.

“Lack of preparation will result in the unsuccessful implementation of the SOP, increased risks, frustration, conflict, public tension, and most importantly, increased infection and spread of the disease.”

Dr Ng Kim Fong, president of the Association of Doctors Johor which is collecting funds for the production of personal protective equipment for frontliners, also voiced concern about a potential third wave of Covid-19 cases.

He said relaxing restrictions under the MCO would cause a spike in cases.

“The problem is, we need to do more testing,” he added.

Ng, who is a cardiologist at a hospital in Johor, one of the states that have been hardest-hit by the virus pandemic, said the MCO should have continued according to plan until May 12.

“Most healthcare workers are worried,” he said. “However, this will be the new normal.

“People must continue to practise social distancing, wear masks and wash their hands regularly.”