Malaysians need more than two days to adjust to new procedures under the conditional movement control order (MCO), said civil society groups and healthcare professionals battling Covid-19.
In a petition signed by 359 doctors, groups and former Covid-19 patients, they said Malaysia needs at least one week to properly prepare and implement new standard operating procedures (SOPs) once movement restrictions are relaxed.
It would have been better to ease MCO restrictions on May 13 instead of May 4 as announced by the Perikatan Nasional government yesterday.
The MCO of the past six weeks has been successful at preventing Covid-19 infections from spiralling out of control in Malaysia, they said but added that these achievements could be undone if Malaysians are not given enough time to prepare for new norms of behaviour once MCO restrictions are eased and most of the economy is opened up.
“We definitely need to gradually relax the restrictions and ensure that we are able to go back to life, to work and to rebuild,” they said in a statement issued on their behalf by think tank Galen Centre for Health and Social policy.
“However, we are concerned that these achievements could be lost if there is not enough investment in time ensuring people are sufficiently prepared to protect themselves, families, places of work and communities.
“There is a real risk of successive waves of infection as a result of non-compliance and misunderstanding of the SOPs due to the lack of preparation time.
“This could result in Malaysia moving from this MCO to another one potentially in a couple of months. We cannot afford that.”
The signatories include 52 doctors, one-third of whom are currently serving on the frontlines in the battle against Covid-19.
They also include 11 organisations that specialise in public health policies.
Putrajaya yesterday announced most economic sectors, closed due to the six-week MCO, will be allowed to resume operations on May 4 but with certain conditions.
These include practising social distancing between workers and clients and providing hand sanitisers.
Restaurants, for instance, will have to set their tables two metres apart from each other, while stores will have markers on their floors to ensure customers stay one metre apart while lining up at the cashier.
The petition argued that Malaysians need more time to make these preparations.
“There seems to be an overdependent expectation that SOPs will solve problems without first investing in ensuring that communities, businesses and the public are briefed and trained on them.
“Employers and employees of offices, retail and food shop outlets and other places of work are not likely to be adequately briefed and trained on the specifics of disease prevention according to their work location.
“Two days is not enough time. Lack of preparation will result in unsuccessful implementation of the SOPs, increased risks, frustration, conflict, public tension, and most importantly, increased infection and spread of the disease.” – TMI