Thursday, January 20, 2022

Full-scale lockdowns should be the last resort, says economist

Jomo Kwame Sundaram says the government should introduce a targeted response to tackle the spread of the pandemic.

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Prominent economist Jomo Kwame Sundaram today urged the government to introduce a targeted response to combat the spread of Covid-19, saying that full-scale lockdowns should be the last resort.

Speaking at a forum hosted by Astro Awani, he said Malaysia might fail in its efforts to control the pandemic if the government delayed in implementing more equitable measures.

“A proportional and targeted response is the way forward,” he said. “Lockdown measures are unsustainable.”

He suggested that the government refer to countries such as South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Laos and Vietnam which he said had been able to flatten their virus curves without imposing total lockdowns.

“These measures would keep us all ahead,” he added. “We should not simply resort to total lockdowns. Recovery should not simply mean a return to the status quo.”

Jomo also said the government should recognise the differences between the current lockdown and the one imposed last year, saying the direct risk and collateral damage inflicted by the pandemic must also be taken into consideration.

“Governments must try to maintain family incomes, enabling them to spend to survive and thus keeping the economy ticking and businesses afloat.

“With effective containment of contagion, such programmes enable the earlier resumption of economic activities and recovery.

“Today, lockdown means a very different thing, it means a step-by-step escalation of proportionate, targeted and time-limited measures,” he said.

Reiterating that another national lockdown would inflict “collateral damage” on the economy, he said the only way for Malaysia to move forward was to build a resilient community.

He said community-based adherence to SOPs such as mask wearing and strict controls over social gatherings in both public and private spaces could help the government’s efforts to bring the pandemic under control.

“Any further escalation of measures would be the result of the failure to comply with the preceding ones,” he said, adding that the pandemic had become endemic.

“It is therefore up to us to accept them while they are still relatively easy to follow.”

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