Commentary Lifestyle

Into Week 2 of the MCO & there are loose ends to tie

There is no medical evidence anywhere to say that a lone jogger like this one will spread Covid-19 out in the open or is at risk of infection from a carrier.

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Written by Aziz Hassan

March 27, 2020.

Recollections & Reflections

IT’S been just over two months since the first cases were reported in Malaysia, all three tourists from China confirmed positive two days after entering the company from Singapore on January 23.

The situation remained very much under control and manageable for about 45 days and this earned the praise of the World Health Organisation but there was to be a spike from March 15, when the number of new cases jumped to 190 from 41 the previous day. The total thus jumped from 238 to 428. Still not too alarming

Much of the latter part of the spike came from a four-day Islamic gathering at a mosque outside Kuala Lumpur attended by the thousands, including followers of the school of thought from reportedly seven regional countries. Since then about 60 per cent of the majority of the total cases have been from those who attended the event and their contacts.

The situation turned into one of serious concern that Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, just past two weeks into the job, had to announce a Movement Control Order beginning March 18 to end on March 31 but just before the end of the first week of enforcement came another announcement of an extension to end on April 14.

Reaction time and testing are two critical elements between containment and a spread

If one looks at the countries that have best handled the pandemic thus far – Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan – crucial is the reaction time when a case is confirmed to also place a carrier’s contacts into strict isolation. The other part is how many people are tested. Of the Western countries, Germany is deemed to have done the best while the less said the better of the United States, the world’s richest country and one generally regarded as among the best democracies. It is now considered to be another new epicentre, alongside Europe but the last person you should tell this to is their bungling president Donald Trump who has amused the world with his nonsensical remarks at his now daily press conferences.

Our MCO is no doubt necessary and well-meaning. In many ways it’s similar to the total lockdowns now enforced in several countries and which was first imposed in Wuhan, where this pandemic started. Even where it is enforced the most stringently, like in Wuhan, residents are allowed to do their grocery shopping, for example. In Europe it’s just like here but with one significant difference – the governments do allow people to go out for some air and do their workouts they would normally would on a normal day and this is based on advice by health experts. But two conditions must be strictly adhered to – and that is distancing and avoiding crowds.

Most countries advise at least a metre apart between two persons but in the UK the advice is for two metres. It’s based on medical evidence and no one has argued against this. Germany is also in lockdown but even in a country known for its strict enforcement, people are allowed in the open but are again told to practise social distancing if seen to be too close to each other. That’s what enforcement means.

Enforcers must be well-informed to be able to act wisely and avoid issues that should be avoided in these trying times

This is why it’s disturbing to read news reports of people being arrested for jogging or walking in the park alone and despite practising social distancing. Follow this strictly and you are never going to be at risk of an infection and neither will you infect somewhere else, if you are a carrier that is. When referred to this at Facebook, most asked “What if others too want to walk or jog in the park or cycle on the road?” The answer is simple: “If it’s a big group or two persons side by side then it’s for the enforcers to disperse them or keep them apart. No dispute there.”

March 27, 2020.

Recollections & Reflections

IT’S been just over two months since the first cases were reported in Malaysia, all three tourists from China confirmed positive two days after entering the company from Singapore on January 23.

The situation remained very much under control and manageable for about 45 days and this earned the praise of the World Health Organisation but there was to be a spike from March 15, when the number of new cases jumped to 190 from 41 the previous day. The total thus jumped from 238 to 428. Still not too alarming

Much of the latter part of the spike came from a four-day Islamic gathering at a mosque outside Kuala Lumpur attended by the thousands, including followers of the school of thought from reportedly seven regional countries. Since then about 60 per cent of the majority of the total cases have been from those who attended the event and their contacts.

The situation turned into one of serious concern that Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, just past two weeks into the job, had to announce a Movement Control Order for 14 days beginning March 8 and just before the end of the first week of enforcement came another announcement of an extension for two weeks to end on April 14.

Reaction time and testing are two critical elements between containment and a spread

If one looks at the countries that have best handled the pandemic thus far – Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan – crucial is the reaction time when a case is confirmed to also place a carrier’s contacts into strict isolation. The other part is how many people are tested. Of the Western countries, Germany is deemed to have done the best while the less said the better of the United States, the world’s richest country and one generally regarded as among the best democracies. It is now considered to be another new epicentre, alongside Europe but the last person you should tell this to is their bungling president Donald Trump who has amused the world with his nonsensical remarks at his now daily press conferences.

Our MCO is no doubt necessary and well-meaning. In many ways it’s similar to the total lockdowns now enforced in several countries and which was first imposed in Wuhan, where this pandemic started. Even where it is enforced the most stringently, like in Wuhan, residents are allowed to do their grocery shopping, for example. In Europe it’s just like here but with one significant difference – the governments do allow people to go out for some air and do their workouts they would normally would on a normal day and this is based on advice by health experts. But two conditions must be strictly adhered to – and that is distancing and avoiding crowds.

Most countries advise at least a metre apart between two persons but in the UK the advice is for two metres. It’s based on medical evidence and no one has argued against this. Germany is also in lockdown but even in a country known for its strict enforcement, people are allowed in the open but are again told to practise social distancing if seen to be too close to each other. That’s what enforcement means.

Enforcers must be well-informed to be able to act wisely and avoid issues that should be avoided in these trying times

This is why it’s disturbing to read news reports of people being arrested for jogging or walking in the park alone and despite practising social distancing. Follow this strictly and you are never going to be at risk of an infection and neither will you infect somewhere else, if you are a carrier that is. When referred to this at Facebook, most asked “What if others too want to walk or jog in the park or cycle on the road?” The answer is simple: “If it’s a big group or two persons side by side then it’s for the enforcers to disperse them or keep them apart. No dispute there.”

It looks like our enforcers have interpreted the “Stay Home” mantra to mean that you shouldn’t be out of your home completely even if you are the type who will strictly stick to the social distancing advisory.

What we are seeing now gives the interpretation that our MCO is tougher than the lockdowns elsewhere but whether it will achieve the desire results can only be seen a few weeks later. We cannot discount the possibility that if the MCO is doing its job but the infections rise unabated, there could be a medical perspective to this, like if indeed our overall treatment regime, from the first step to the last, is up to the highest standards.

While we all want this outbreak to be over soonest possible and every effort taken to check its spread, the government must ensure that our enforcers are well informed about what is risky lifestyle and what is not. Over-zealous and ill-informed enforcement will only create tensions and disputes, which under the already testing circumstances should best be avoided, the law or regulation notwithstanding.

Talking about enforcement brings me to a photo of a queue today outside a Chow Kit market which was being overseen by a Rela member. It is obvious from the photo that the man wasn’t enforcing the distancing advice. That’s the problem – what should not be stopped is stopped (and penalised) but what should be enforced is not.

Indonesia could be in for more trouble if the use of chloroquine is allowed without strict controls. It is an anti-malarial treatment that is not approved by the WHO to treat Covid-19 while clinical trials are ongoing.

Experts in Indonesia are warning the public against panic-buying of chloroquine phosphate, citing its dangerous side effects.

Reports have surfaced that people had started to buy the drug without doctors’ prescription after President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo announced last Friday that the government was preparing medicines, including three million doses of chloroquine, which he described as “having been proven to cure Covid-19 in other countries”.

Maksum Radji, a clinical microbiologist at the University of Indonesia’s School of Pharmacy, said the government must be careful in distributing information about the drug as clinical trials were still underway to measure its effectiveness in treating Covid-19. Even then, any consumption of the drug must be done under a doctors’ supervision, he said.

It looks like our enforcers have interpreted the “Stay Home” mantra to mean that you shouldn’t be out of your home completely even if you are the type who will strictly stick to the social distancing advisory.

What we are seeing now gives the interpretation that our MCO is tougher than the lockdowns elsewhere but whether it will achieve the desire results can only be seen a few weeks later. We cannot discount the possibility that if the MCO is doing its job but the infections rise unabated, there could be a medical perspective to this, like if indeed our overall treatment regime, from the first step to the last, is up to the highest standards.

While we all want this outbreak to be over soonest possible and every effort taken to check its spread, the government must ensure that our enforcers are well informed about what is risky lifestyle and what is not. Over-zealous and ill-informed enforcement will only create tensions and disputes, which under the already testing circumstances should best be avoided, the law or regulation notwithstanding.

Talking about enforcement brings me to a photo of a queue today outside a Chow Kit market which was being overseen by a Rela member. It is obvious from the photo that the man wasn’t enforcing the distancing advice. That’s the problem – what should not be stopped is stopped (and penalised) but what should be enforced is not.

Indonesia could be in for more trouble if the use of chloroquine is allowed without strict controls. It is an anti-malarial treatment that is not approved by the WHO to treat Covid-19 while clinical trials are ongoing.

Experts in Indonesia are warning the public against panic-buying of chloroquine phosphate, citing its dangerous side effects.

Reports have surfaced that people had started to buy the drug without doctors’ prescription after President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo announced last Friday that the government was preparing medicines, including three million doses of chloroquine, which he described as “having been proven to cure Covid-19 in other countries”.

Maksum Radji, a clinical microbiologist at the University of Indonesia’s School of Pharmacy, said the government must be careful in distributing information about the drug as clinical trials were still underway to measure its effectiveness in treating Covid-19. Even then, any consumption of the drug must be done under a doctors’ supervision, he said.

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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.