Malaysia is at a very tricky juncture today, April 14 marks the end of the extended Covid 19 Movement Control Order and the Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin will be addressing the nation later to inform whether there will be an extension, a more stringent order or will the MCO be eased.
Its been a grueling 28 days since the MCO was enacted, not being able to move around, work, visit or do anything that’s natural, its been very difficult for the 32 million inhabitants. Life as it is, has been turned upside down by the coronavirus. The daily briefing by Director General of Health Datuk Noor Hisham Abdullah gives an accurate perspective of where Malaysia is fighting this invisible enemy. In order for the Cabinet to make the decision today they will need to look at the raw data and projection provided by the Health Ministry coupled with other information from the Finance and Trade Ministry. As for the Covid 19 cases, to date the country has 4288 positive cases, 2553 currently recuperating in the hospital, 1609 already discharged and recorded a total of 67 deaths. Malaysia ranks low in the number of country infected and has one of the lowest mortality rate. Currently there are 17 zones identified as critical with high number of cases, but our approach has been incisive with both security forces and health officers working hand in hand to contain the area. These are some of the strategy our Health Ministry is undertaking to manage the spread of the virus or allowing it to spike. They also zero in on risky areas, enforce further restriction and screen out the potential positive patients and quickly isolate them before they spread to others.
Kudos goes to Datuk Noor and his team for formulating such surgical maneuver in tackling the epidemic in the country. It has worked so far, however the big question next is, does he and his team need more time to see the strategy completely work out?
The Prime Minister has a monumental task placed on his shoulder, the announcement he is about to make, concerns lives and livelihood. While we see the number of cases plateauing, JP Morgan and Malaysian Institute of Economic Research predicted the peak to occur around the middle of April, but they have been wrong on the daily forecast. So do we take these models and wait out? Or we look at the current numbers and consider ourselves out of the woods or do we need to have zero new cases before the MCO is lifted?
While we ponder, in the mean time the economy is teetering, recession is imminent, businesses are warning of collapse and mass retrenchment is inevitable. These are the scenarios laid out in-front of the Prime Minister when he makes that call on how Malaysia moves forward after April 14.
Leaders all around the world are having an unenviable position, no ones to make these hard decisions where lives are at stake on whichever end of the stick you pick. To eradicate the virus completely is impossible, a vaccine is needed for that to happen, 100% containment means North Korea style restriction which Malaysia is partially getting to, bringing the number of cases down is possible with MCO but what happens when its lifted will we see a second wave like Singapore and South Korea. China is now preparing itself for imported cases and imposing strict guidelines for Chinese and foreigners returning to the country.
Polls conducted by local media shows the public are ready for an extension, but the same cant be said if the business community were to take the votes. We learned from Brexit not to rely on public sentiment when it comes to decisions impacting the whole nation. I don’t trust polls neither should the Prime Minister, he has the data and facts presented by the wisest people in the cabinet and should make the call to be best interest of all Malaysians, the economy and the future of her survival.