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It’s about crowd control, health experts say as numbers spiral towards fourth wave

Crowd control is key to making sure that case numbers do not continue to rise, they say, adding that there has been a lack of systematic preventive measures so far.

Siva Selan
3 minute read

Health experts warn that the country could soon see a fourth wave of Covid-19 infections as daily case numbers which for weeks have hovered above four digits crossed the 2,000 mark yesterday for the first time since the beginning of March.

Those who spoke to MalaysiaNow said the number of cases would be difficult to contain if the government failed to keep a lid on movements during festive periods.

Dr Subramaniam Muniandy, president of the Malaysian Medical Association, said the so-called fourth wave could arrive sooner rather than later if action is not taken.

He attributed the recent rise in number of cases to a lack of systematic preventive measures.

“We are not doing anything in a systematic manner,” he said. “Cases went down just a little bit, and we are already relaxing SOPs, giving permission for everyone to operate as usual.”

The first movement control order (MCO), implemented on March 18 last year, saw a clampdown on most movements with social activities banned and only essential services allowed to remain open. It was lifted on May 4 and replaced with the conditional MCO, which continued until June 10 when the recovery MCO kicked in.

The MCO was reinstated in six states in January amid a spike in infections which saw daily numbers breaching 3,000 for the first time on Jan 7.

“We are not doing anything in a systematic manner.”

A state of emergency was also declared at about the same time which the Yang di-Pertuan Agong said would continue until Aug 1 unless case numbers can be brought under control.

The second MCO, dubbed MCO 2.0, was lifted in early March and replaced with the CMCO currently in force across Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Johor, Kelantan, Penang and Sarawak.

Yesterday, daily infection numbers hit 2,148, breaching the 2,000 mark for the first time since March 5.

Subramaniam said authorities were trying to strike a balance between lives and livelihoods but warned that this would not be easy.

He said the move to allow large gatherings would aggravate the health crisis, adding that festivals should not be seen as grounds for relaxing SOPs.

“I believe a fourth wave is already around the corner, and I think it’ll be worse if they open up Ramadan bazaars and night markets,” he told MalaysiaNow.

“We need to follow SOPs and restrict movements.”

He acknowledged the change brought about by Covid-19 in the way festivals are marked but said authorities should prioritise lives and public health when making decisions.

Dr Kuljit Singh, president of the Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia, recommended that the government take extra care when giving businesses the green light to reopen during the pandemic.

“We need to be a little bit more stringent for a longer period of time so that the number of cases can be brought down to a significant level,” he said.

However, he added that too many restrictions would sound the death knell for the already weakened economy.

“We cannot cut corners in this because we know it will be difficult to control crowds.”

Health Minister Dr Adham Baba said on Monday that the country’s infectivity rate of Rt was at 1.06, in contrast to previous projections that daily cases could drop to 500 in May at an Rt of less than 1.0.

Kuljit agreed that extra care should be taken when making decisions on business operations and travel, whether interstate or inter-district.

He also warned against mass gatherings, saying an outbreak would be difficult to control under such circumstances.

“We cannot cut corners in this because we know it will be difficult to control crowds.”

Adding that mass gatherings are the usual culprits for virus spread, he said festivals and other celebrations could be held but with restrictions.

Noting that the majority of people have yet to be vaccinated against Covid-19, he said it was still too early to reopen businesses “in a big way”.

“At the moment, the authorities really need to control anything with numbers. That’s what they can do for now.”