Reiterate call for emergency Parliament next week to ensure a creative and flexible implementation of twice-extended MCO to strengthen Malaysia’s public health infrastructure to protect frontliners, ramp up Covid-19 testing capability, to look after vulnerable groups and sectors and prepare for an exit strategy

Grim international milestones in the global invisible war against Covid-19:

Firstly, the United States is exceeded the half-a-million mark for confirmed Covid-19 cases, with a grand total of 502,876 confirmed cases and a total death toll of 18,747 deaths.

Secondly, in a matter of slightly over a hundred days, the three regions of North America, Europe and the Middle East have each more confirmed Covid-19 cases than Asia, with North America exceeding half-a-million mark while Europe nearing the half-a-million confirmed cases.

Thirdly, the United States have outstripped South Korea in the number of Covid-19 cases although Covid-19 was identified in South Korea and the United States on the same day on January 19. Twelve weeks later, United States has become the foremost epicentre of the pandemic while South Korea (until early March regarded as the second country after China which was most hard hit by the novel coronavirus) is now regarded as a model country which had contained the pandemic. South Korea has a total of 10,423 confirmed cases with 204 deaths.

Fourthly, the global total of confirmed Covid-19 cases is less than 400 cases to pass the 1.7 million mark. It took 12 weeks from the first reported case to reach the half a million mark, one week to reach a second half-million mark, and for the last six days, it had taken a day each to rage past the 100,000-case mark. At this rate, the global total of confirmed Covid-19 cases will rage past the two million mark early next week.

Fifthly, Turkey which was one of the few countries which had resisted imposing any form of lockdown in the fight against Covid-19, has put in place a two-day lockdown in 31 provinces, including Istanbul, Ankara and other major cities following 98 new deaths and 4,747 new cases in the last 24 hours, making a total of 47,029 confirmed cases and total death toll of 1,006.

Malaysia must learn from the lessons - both success and failure - of other countries, in particular South Korea, China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, United States, Iran, Turkey. But it should develop its own counter-strategy to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said yesterday that the infectivity of Covid-19 in Malaysia has been brought down to a stable level since the implementation of the movement control order.

He said that the basic reproductive number (R0) of the disease was 3.55 prior to the implementation of the order on March 18. That number has since fallen to just one.

"The R0 was 3.55, which means if one person is infected, that person will infect 3.55 other individuals. Now we managed to bring down the number, which means the MCO is effective to bring down the R0."

A doctor friend told me that R0 was thought to be 2.6 (which means every case will spread to 2.6 persons) for China, but because of poor testing in Malaysia, it is not possible to accurately predict the R0 for Malaysia. He said Malaysia must aim to get testing to 300,000 persons, as compared to some 70,000 at present.

One of the weaknesses of Malaysia’s public health system is our Covid-19 testing, tracing and treating capabilities, and we must have a policy to ramp up these capabilities to provide free and widespread testing to all Malaysians.

The Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations president Marimuthu Nadason has called for monthly cash-aid for low-income earners with the extension of the MCO.

Low-income earners and daily paid workers, including migrant workers, would be the worst hit by the extension of the MCO.

Singapore is giving a support grant of $800 (RM2,438) for three consecutive months for full-time and contract workers and United Kingdom provides “80% guaranteed pay” worth £29 (RM156) daily for those who have zero to limited working hours during the Covid-19 crisis.

Clearly, millions of Malaysians simply do not have enough money to face their daily basic expenditure for themselves and their children.

For these reasons, I reiterate my call for an emergency Parliament next week to ensure a creative and flexible implementation of the twice-extended MCO to strengthen Malaysia’s public health infrastructure to protect frontliners; to ramp up Covid-19 testing, tracing and treating capabilities; to look after the vulnerable groups and sectors in the country and to prepare for an exit strategy.

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri