There must be a robust debate as how Malaysia can avert a third wave of Covid-19 outbreak and re-imposition of MCO in the next 18 -24 months until a vaccine is developed and widely available

The nation heaved a sigh of relief yesterday when the Health Director-General Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah announced the latest data for the Covid-19 outbreak.

In the previous 24 hours, Malaysia recorded 85 new cases, bringing the total Covid-19 cases to 5,072; one new death bringing the total toll to 83 and another 169 people had recovered bringing the total recoveries to 2,647 or 52.2 per cent – the first time more than half of the infected people have recovered.

Malaysians saw light at the end of the tunnel, for Noor Ibrahim’s data yesterday marked the end of a 31-day spree of three-digit daily increases of Covid-19 cases with the return of a two-digit increase - a confirmation of what Malaysians had been hoping and rooting for that the country had turned a corner in the second wave of Covid-19 outbreak.

Personally, I find relief that my amateurish reading of the data have not been wrong, that we have reached the peak of the second wave of the Covid-19 outbreak on April 3 with 3,333 cases and averted the worst prognosis made by JP Morgan of a peak of about 6,300 cases in mid-April or the more dire projection of the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER) of peaking at 8,900 cases.

There was no exponential surge or spike of Covid-19 increases of 1,000 or 2,000 cases a day – and credit for this achievement must go to the frontliners and the movement control order (MCO) imposed on March 18.

My hope that in the two weeks to April 28 we can see the daily increase of Covid-19 cases to further reduce to two-digit and even single-digit figures is therefore no pipe dream!

However, we must not only beat the second wave of Covid-19 outbreak, but even more important, ensure that there is no third wave and no necessity for another MCO in the country.

It is most disappointing, however, that the National Security Council Task Force has yet to adopt the best practices in the war against Covid-19 and continue to produce daily information of the four coloured zones of red, orange, yellow and green on the number of Covid-19 infections based on outdated data – using cumulative instead of the latest statistics.

Malaysia has one of the best recovery rates from Covid-19 infections, achieving a recovery rate of 52.2% or 2,647 cases of recovery from a total of 5,072 infections, better than United States and most of the European countries, including United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France, Belgium and Netherlands.

Malaysia has also a comparatively low fatality rate of 1.6% with 83 deaths when compared to countries like United States (28,394 deaths or 4.4%), Spain (18,708 deaths or 10.5%), Italy (21,645 deaths or 13.1%), France (17,167 deaths or 11.6%), Germany (3,592 deaths or 2.7%), United Kingdom (12,868 deaths or 13%) or Belgium (4,440 deaths or 13.2%).

China, where Covid-19 first started at the end of December, has a total of 82,295 cases, but as of today, 77,816 cases have recovered (which is 94.6% of total cases) while the total death toll is 3,342 cases or 4.1%.

Wuhan would not have been re-opened at the beginning of this month if China had depended on cumulative figures instead of updated data.

The same applies to South Korea, which has a total of 10,591 cases, with 7,616 recoveries or 719% and a total death toll of 225 or 2.1%. Yesterday, South Korea became the first major country in the Covid-19 pandemic to hold a national election.

The NSC Task Force on Covid-19 should update its data for the four coloured zones to give an accurate and up-to-date picture of the Covid-19 outbreak in the country, instead of an “one-way street” approach with more and more districts designated as red zones over time and discounting the successes in the war against the novel coronavirus in Malaysia.

Although Philippines (5,453 cases and 349 deaths) and Indonesia (5,136 cases and 469 deaths) have now overtaken Malaysia in both total Covid-19 confirmed cases and deaths, Malaysia should not have been the lead-country in ASEAN if not for the second wave of the coronavirus outbreak.

Thailand has a total of 2,643 confirmed cases and 43 deaths. We should be trailing Thailand as it has more than double our population or it would be a poor reflection of our public health policy and system when compared to other ASEAN countries.

There should now be a robust debate in the country on how we can prevent a third or more waves of the Covid-19 outbreak and further re-imposition of the MCO in the forthcoming 18 – 24 months before an effective vaccine is developed and becomes widely available.

But one thing is certain. In the next one to two years, social distancing in the economic, political and social life not only in Malaysia, but the whole world, has come to stay.

It may take two years before we can get back to the pre-Covid-19 normalcy – but not even then, as we have to deal with the economic devastation wrought by the pandemic in Malaysia and the world.

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri