Make nationwide lockdown as final countdown for Covid-19

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If we continue with ways which we are accustomed to, it will soon be game over.

After the first Covid-19 case was detected in the country last year on Jan 25, a total of 100,318 cases were registered by Dec 24. During this 11-month period, the average cases per day were 300. Inexplicably, inter-district and interstate travel restrictions were lifted on Dec 7 for areas under the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO).

Many people took advantage and travelled for year-end holidays and more would have done so but were held back by severe flooding in many parts of the country, with some travellers marooned by floodwaters. Throwing caution to the wind to makan angin soon took its toll and a record high of 2,525 new cases were recorded on Dec 31.

The Movement Control Order (MCO), which was first introduced on March 18 last year, had to be reimposed on Jan 13 for five states and three federal territories. But it was too late to prevent a disastrous start for the year, as January registered a total of 101,949 cases, which were more than the total for the first 11 months.

Mercifully, the second MCO was effective in bringing down Covid-19 infections, as daily cases dropped to an average of 3,064 per day in February, 1,443 in March but rose to 2,107 in April. The difference between the first and second halves of April was stark, with the first half registering 22,483 cases at 1,499 per day, and the second half 40,736 cases at 2,716 per day.

Although warning signs were already loud and clear in mid-April, the authorities continued to be lax by allowing night markets and Ramadan bazaars to operate, and over 100,000 university students nationwide, except those in Sarawak, allowed to return home for Hari Raya. Had nationwide lockdown was introduced in mid-April, daily cases would have been below 1,500.

Instead, it was announced in early May that for areas under MCO, Hari Raya visits are allowed on the first day with not more than 15 people at one time depending on the size of the house. For those celebrating in areas under CMCO and recovery MCO (RMCO), visits are allowed for the first three days of Syawal.

In areas under CMCO, the hosts can accommodate not more than 20 people at one time while in areas under RMCO, there cannot be more than 25 guests in a house, but this also depends on the size of the premises. But Covid-19 infections continued to rise steeply in May and on May 10, a nationwide MCO from May 12 to June 7 was announced.

Bloomberg

But MCO 3.0 was not able to stem the tide as the steep rise in Covid-19 infections came like a tsunami. On May 28, there were 8,290 Covid-19 cases, prompting Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to announce the first phase of a full closure of the social and economic sectors for 14 days beginning June 1.

He said in a statement that throughout the total lockdown period, all sectors are not allowed to operate except for essential services and economic sectors. And if phase one of the lockdown is successful, the Government will then implement a second phase lockdown by allowing the reopening of some sectors in the economy that does not involve large gatherings.

The second phase of lockdown will be implemented for a period of four weeks after phase one is over, Phase three will be similar to MCO 3.0 whereby social activities are not allowed but almost all economic sectors are allowed to operate with strict SOPs together with limited physical presence in the workplace.

Hence, it is imperative that the momentum be continued to CMCO, RMCO and eventually say good riddance to Covid-19. This is possible if we resolve to contain Covid-19 by taking concrete steps starting with the first phase of total lockdown, which is likely to take many more weeks than the initial two-week period announced.

We may then take the next solid step to move into phase two only when we are absolutely sure. This time, there should be no turning back by backtracking and starting all over again. Likewise, there should be no rush to reach the third phase and re-introduction of CMCO and RMCO. The countdown can be slow or slowed down, depending on prevailing developments.

In any case, it is probably our last chance to bring the pandemic under control. We have lost many previous battles, and this may well be our last. To survive, we must win this war, or we become part of the grim statistics.

But if we continue with ways which we are accustomed to, it will soon be game over. If so, whatever we have achieved previously will be obliterated. In this final countdown, all of us must be determined to eradicate Covid-19 infections by stepping up a gear and not carry on with business as usual.

The enormity of this challenge can be fathomed by Covid-19 cases hitting the roof. On May 29, it has already reached 9,020. If allowed to surpass 10,000 cases per day, it would be a matter of time when people in this country will start dying like flies.

The views expressed here are strictly those of The True Net reader YS Chan from Petaling Jaya.