Thanks to Noor Hisham, we have got a glimpse of the exit plan strategy but Malaysians need more than a glimpse

Thanks to the Health director-general Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah, we have got a glimpse of the exit plan strategy but Malaysians need more than a glimpse.

This is why I had been calling for the Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to have a live telecast to share with Malaysians the exit plan strategy and blueprint and to allow a robust debate to take place, including in Parliament.

Noor said that the exit plan for the movement control order (MCO) must be a “soft landing” in phases so that Malaysia can enter into a “new normal” while still continuing to break the transmission chain of Covid-19.

He said the government is planning and looking at how to mitigate the situation, so that there will be a soft landing where the lifting of restrictions will be in stages, looking into the next two weeks, and then another two weeks, how slowly but surely to make sure that the country can actually return back to a “new norm” to break the chain of Covid-19 transmission.

Noor reminded Malaysians of the advice of the World Health Organisation (WHO) that efforts to break the chain of infections will continue until 2021.

He said that even if the MCO is lifted, as long as a vaccine has not been discovered for Covid-19, everyone must change their lifestyles and habits in order to continue with the prevention strategy.

It must be crystal clear to all Malaysians that the easing of restrictions is not the end the Covid-19 pandemic, especially as many countries have started to ease restrictive measures aimed at reducing its spread.

There is a growing number of countries which have begun to ease their lockdowns as their leaders grappled with the twin public health and economic crisis, weighing lives against livelihoods and the financial imperative to restart shattered economies against the medical necessity to stay home and save lives – and Malaysia is no exception.

One study has proposed a four-phase “road map to re-opening”:

First phase - to suppress the spread of the virus as quickly and as comprehensively as possible, to stop the “curve” from rising to an unmanageable peak that overwhelms public health systems. If there are more critically ill people than there are hospital beds, people who could have been saved will die. This suppression involves physical distancing measures, banning gatherings, closing public spaces and potentially schools, having people work from home and limiting all travel.

Second phase - individual states, or even cities, would be able to gradually ease certain restrictions but only when they have built up their capacity to identify, test and isolate most confirmed Covid-19 contacts and their close contacts.

Third phase - allow for remaining restrictions to be lifted when a vaccine is developed, an effective therapy is widely available or when testing data shows widespread immunity.

Fourth phase - invest heavily in medical research and public health systems to prepare for the next pandemic.

Singapore was for weeks the darling of international comparison and the exemplar of how best to suppress the Covid-19 pandemic. But there has since been a dramatic spike in the number of infections which caused it tighten restrictions.

With 8,014 Covid-19 confirmed cases, Singapore has now more cases than Indonesia (6,760 cases), Philippines (6,459) and Malaysia (5,425). When Malaysia imposed MCO on March 18, Singapore had only 345 cases, as compared to 309 for Indonesia, 217 for Philippines and 900 for Malaysia.

Japan, similarly, which kept infections low for two months, has seen a jump in infections, now surpassing South Korea in the total number Covid-19 cases.

These examples of a devastating “second wave” of Covid-19 pandemic are salutary lessons to countries all over the world and the international community itself.

In Australia, three of Sydney’s beaches were cautiously re-opened yesterday but only for exercise.

India allowed some industrial and agricultural work to resume, even as the country record its single four–digit biggest-day rise in Covid-19 cases.

In Iran, which has overtaken China (82,747 cases) as the eighth country with the largest number of Covid-19 confirmed cases (83,505 cases) and where the outbreak has killed 5,209 people, some social distancing rules were relaxed last week and some major shopping centres and inner-city highways were re-opened.

In Europe, Germany, Poland, Norway, the Czech Republic and Albania are beginning to ease their lockdowns – though France, Spain and UK have decided against relaxing measures at this stage.

What is Malaysia’s best exit plan strategy and blueprint?

The Prime Minister should share them with Malaysians and allow Parliament and various sections of the population to give their inputs and contribuitions, learning from the successes and mistakes of other countries, to make them among the best in the world.

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri