Eight grim milestone in last 24 hours in invisible global war against Covid-19 virus which could last 12 – 18 months and alter national lives and international relations

The past 24 hours saw eight grim milestones in the invisible global war against Covid-19 virus which could last 12 – 18 months and which will alter national lives and international relations, viz:

  1. The global total of confirmed Covid-19 cases have shot past the 500,000-mark, totalling 531,504 confirmed cases;
  2. United States surpassed China in having the most Covid-19 infections, with 84,946 reported as against 81,340 cases in China;
  3. Second day in succession where United States had more than 10,000 daily increases in Covid-19 cases – yesterday 16,992 cases increase compared to the previous daily increase of 14,823;
  4. Global total of Covid-19 deaths exceeding the 24,000-mark – 24,138 with a daily increase of 2,027;
  5. Italy reporting the highest death toll with more than 8,215 deaths, two-and-half times China’s total of Covid-19 deaths of 3,287;
  6. It has reached over 200 countries all over the world, i.e. 203 countries and territories, 111 of which have have reported fatalities;
  7. Acceleration at an exponential rate of Covid-19 cases. It took 67 days from the first reported case to reach 100,000 cases, 11 days for second 100,000 cases, four days for the third 100,000 cases, three days for the fourth 100,000 cases and just two days for the fifth 100,000 cases; and
  8. For the first time, a world leaders’ summit was held by video conferencing. At G20 Video Special Summit on the human and economic toll of the Covid-19 pandemic, leaders of the Group of 20 major economies pledged to inject US$5 trillion in fiscal spending into the global economy to blunt the economic impact of the coronavirus and "do whatever it takes to overcome the pandemic". Showing more unity than at any time since the 2008-2009 financial crisis that led to the G20's creation, the leaders said they were committed to implement and fund all necessary health measures needed to stop the virus's spread.

Although the United States has become epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic, Italy will overtake China today to become the second country with the highest number of confirmed cases (Italy was yesterday third in the world with 80,589 confirmed cases).

It is only after reading an article in The Atlantic publication, entitled “How the Pandemic Will End” that I have a better understanding of the Covid-19 pandemic and social distancing,

the rationale behind the Movement Control Order (MC), which has been extended to April 14.

The science writer, Ed Yong, said that as long as the virus persists somewhere, until a vaccine is invented which is expected to take 12 – 18 months, there’s a chance that one infected traveller will reignite fresh sparks in countries which have already extinguished their fires, which would include not only China, South Korea, Singapore but also Malaysia.

He envisaged three possible “endgames” for the Covid-19 pandemic, but regarded as the most likely scenario one where Covid-19 will be “a lingering part of life” for at least a year, if not much longer.

He wrote:

“If the current round of social-distancing measures works, the pandemic may ebb enough for things to return to a semblance of normalcy. Offices could fill and bars could bustle. Schools could reopen and friends could reunite. But as the status quo returns, so too will the virus. This doesn’t mean that society must be on continuous lockdown until 2022. But ‘we need to be prepared to do multiple periods of social distancing,’ says Stephen Kissler of Harvard.”

With a better understanding of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin should ensure that there is firm but flexible and even nimble strategy to deal both with the health and economic aspects of the coronavirus outbreak and that this will be the inspiring spirit behind the Prime Minister’s comprehensive economic rescue package to restart the economic engine of the country at the first available opportunity!

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri