PM Muhyiddin should initiate extensive consultations with different Malaysian stakeholders on the exit strategy Malaysia should adopt as this is uncharted territory not only for Malaysia but for the world

While the Covid-19 pandemic continues to rage on globally, registering 1,339,214 cases with a total death score of 74,371, with the United States and United Kingdom as the worst epicentres of the outbreak, there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel that Malaysia has passed the peak of the second wave of the Covid-19 outbreak and we can begin to think about the exit strategy for the movement control order (MCO).

In fact, even in Europe, states like Italy, Spain and France which had been devastated by the novel coronavirus outbreak are seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

With deaths in Spain declining for the fourth consecutive day, Italy reporting its lowest death toll in two weeks and France recording a decline in confirmed Covid-19 cases, there is tentative hope across Europe that lockdowns are starting to show results.

As of noon yesterday, there were 3,793 cases of Covid-19 in Malaysia, with 131 new infections, with a death toll of 62.

Some three weeks ago on March 19, the Health Minister, Dr. Adham Baba in his infamous “warm water can kill Covid-19 virus” RTM1 Berita Perdana programme, said that there were “already signs of a plateau” and the flattening of the curve. But this has proved to be a mere hallucination.

Adham was clearly referring to March 15 as the peak of the Covid-19 outbreak which saw an increase of 190 cases, but in the following three weeks, there was no “plateau” nor flattening of the epidemiological curve, as daily increases of Covid-19 shot up by 212 cases on March 23, 235 cases on March 26, 208 cases on April 2 and 217 cases on April 3, with the total confirmed Covid-19 cases on March 18 more than doubling in six days on March 24 and trebling in 10 days on March 28, when there were 2,320 Covid-19 cases.

Although confirmed Covid-19 cases have now almost quintupled (which would require 2,955 cases) from March 18, the date the Movement Control Order (MCO) was imposed, it would appear that the peak of the second wave of the Covid-19 outbreak had been reached on April 3, when the total Covid-19 cases reached 3,333 cases after a daily increase of 217 cases.

In the last three days, there is a plateau in the increase of cases and the curve had been flattened, as the daily increases of Covid-19 cases in the last three days were 150, 179 and 131 cases respectively.

If this prognosis is correct, then the MCO and its extension would have proven wrong JP Morgan’s forecast of a mid-April infection peak at around 6,300 cases as the peak would have been reached on April 3 with 3,333 cases.

The MCO had been clearly effective in curbing the spread and mortality of Covid-19 cases.

I call on the Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to initiate extensive consultations with different Malaysian stakeholders on the exit strategy Malaysia should adopt, as this is an unchartered territory not only for Malaysia but for the world.

Unless a vaccine for Covid-19 is developed – and there are vaccine specialists who say that this will take more than 18 months – it will not be possible return to normalcy pre-Covid-19 pandemic.

The answer to the question “When will the Covid-19 lockdown end” depends in large part on uncertainties about the novel coronavirus that causes the disease, including whether a person can get it more than once and how quickly the world’s scientists might produce a vaccine. The cost and benefits of a prolonged shutdown and what different countries can afford, from both an economic and political standpoint, are factors, too.

There’s a consensus that the pandemic will only end with the establishment of so-called herd immunity, which occurs when enough people in a community are protected from a pathogen that it can’t take hold and dies out.

There are two paths to that outcome.

One is immunization. Researchers would have to develop a vaccine that proves safe and effective against the coronavirus, and health authorities would have to get it to a sufficient number of people.

The second path to herd immunity is grimmer: It can also come about after a large portion of a community has been infected with a pathogen and develops resistance to it that way.

For many countries, the strategy is to lock down movement to dramatically slow the spread, closing businesses and schools, banning gatherings and keeping people at home.

The idea is to prevent a huge burst of infections that overwhelms the medical system, causing excessive deaths as care is rationed. “Flattening the curve” staggers cases over a longer period of time and buys authorities and health-care providers time to mobilize - to build capacity for testing, for tracking down contacts of those who are infected, and for treating the sick, by expanding hospital facilities, including ventilators and intensive-care units.

Lifting restrictions too early risks inviting a new spike. In a model for “exit strategy”, health specialists calls for an intermediate stage in which schools and businesses would reopen but gatherings would still be limited.

People would continue to be encouraged to keep at a distance from one another, and those at high risk would be advised to limit their time in public. If cases begin to rise again, restrictions would be tightened.

Widespread availability of testing is important because of the Covid-19 virus, which is wreaking so much havoc, not because it’s especially lethal, but because it’s insidious; many who are infected are well enough to go about their daily business, unwittingly spreading it to others.

That makes it vital to test for infection widely in the population, and to test everyone with symptoms. That way, those who are infectious can be put in isolation and everyone they’ve had close contact with while contagious can be tracked down, tested and if necessary isolated as well, limiting the spread in the community.

Malaysian stakeholders should play a full part on the exit strategy we should adopt. Who knows, we may develop a model which might be emulated by other countries as among the best in the new world of Covid-19 pandemic economics.

This is also why Malaysians must be aware of Covid-19 developments in other countries.

Latest data for the top 12 countries with most number of Covid-19 cases (which also contain the 12 top countries for Covid-19 deaths) and Malaysia are as follows:

  • United States 362,573 cases; 10,720 deaths (2.96%)
  • Spain 136,675 cases; 13,341 deaths (9.76%)
  • Italy 132,547 cases; 16,523 deaths (12.5% )
  • Germany 102,179 cases; 1,712 deaths (1.67%)
  • France 98,010 cases; 8,911 deaths (9.1%)
  • China 81,708 cases; 3,331 deaths (4.07%)
  • Iran 60,500 cases; 3,739 deaths (6.2%)
  • UK 51,608 cases; 5,373 deaths (10.4%)
  • Turkey 30,217 cases; 649 deaths (2.15%)
  • Switzerland 21,657 cases; 765 deaths (3.5%)
  • Belgium 20,814 cases; 1,632 deaths (7.8%)
  • Netherlands 18,803 cases; 1,867 deaths (9.9%)
  • Malaysia 3,793 cases; 62 deaths (1.63%)

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri