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Covid-19: Disinfection that wastes millions of ringgit

Housing & Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin in a Hazmat suit at a disinfection event for reasons best known to herself. And the event went against all Covid-19 advisory by allowing a crowd.

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Written by Aziz Hassan

March 31, 2020.

Recollections & Reflections

IT’S still looking grim in most parts of the world except maybe for China, ironically where the pandemic started way back last December and where the situation is in reverse as the country puts the brakes on the entry of foreigners who could be bringing the problem back to where it started.

After Wuhan became the epicentre, the problem shifted to Europe and now also presents a crisis for the United States, despite the best efforts of its president who in a matter of a few weeks has established himself as a leader of little substance and whose remarks have been laughed off by many who never knew he could be this bad. But how did he become a billionaire, you wonder.

At the same time, a few places where people would normally expect something like this to hit hard, like India, Latin America and Africa, have so far reported small numbers of cases and deaths. Maybe their time has yet to come but to think that Covid-19 has so far not affected countries in these places in a big way is worth a study in itself.

India, a country of 1.2 billion people, has recorded only 1,071cases as of Sunday while Sri Lanka had only 120 and reported its first death only a few days ago. In Africa, Nigeria for example had 65 by the end of last week, Kenya 38 and Uganda 33.

There is suspicion that some countries are under-reporting; North Korea claims not to have a single case

But with some countries, there is usually the suspicion that many cases are not being detected or there is simply under-reporting. There was a news item on television some hours ago in which North Korea maintained that it did not have a single case.

Like everyone else, Malaysia is doing all it can to fight this outbreak, which from a global perspective is called a pandemic by the World Health Organisation.

One of the latest decisions is to straightaway put someone returning from overseas into a quarantine centre instead of being allowed to self-quarantine. A most sensible move but again one that follows others. You wish sometimes that your country could for once be the truck and not the trailer.

Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Ismail Sabri Yaakob said this when announcing the decision: “We noted that some countries are experiencing an increase in Covid-19 cases because its citizens are returning from abroad.

“That is why the meeting decided that everyone who returns to Malaysia will be quarantined for 14 days.”

The move starts Friday.

There is one decision though that has received negative reactions and from media reports at various foreign sites, it is one that is of little help. Many countries simply did so some weeks ago and on this one it looks like someone must have recommended it based on the simple fact that others had done it.

Who recommended and approved the disinfection exercise?

The decision to disinfect roads, pavements and buildings by the roadside in a gay abandon kind of style has been widely criticised because it goes against all advice on what should be disinfected or sanitised and appears to be clueless. Maybe those who recommended and approved the budget for this need to read all over again about how Covid-19 is transmitted. It’s about touch (with your hands) and catching droplets from a carrier who sneezes and coughs right into your face.

An excerpt from an article in the Business Insider USA: “But sanitizing misters are probably not the most effective way to kill the virus, experts say. The coronavirus mainly travels person to person through saliva and mucus droplets, not through tiny particles in the air.

“I would rather see better efforts to make sure people are disinfecting emergency rooms and high-touch surfaces in hospitals and schools more than I would want to see bleach being sprayed on streets,” Saskia Popescu, an infection-prevention epidemiologist, told Business Insider.

“Experts stress that basic public-health measures like washing your hands, avoiding touching your face, and staying away from sick people are the best ways to protect yourself.”

To Malaysian decision-makers (almost always politicians), civil servants and the people in general, there is no better way to learn about this pandemic than by reading, reading and reading. All you need to do is spend a bit of time and search online. Everything is there and the best part is most of the information is for free. If that doesn’t move you, what will?

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About the author

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Aziz Hassan

A journalist since July 1976 with both the English and Malaya press and was with two newspaper groups before The Mole. Does corporate report-writing and translation in his free time. Currently also a contributing weekly rugby columnist for the New Straits Times.