By Dr Rais Hussin
Thank God, Malaysia has finally woken up. The quarantine policy of the country viz coronavirus -- or what is known by the World Health Organization as 2019-nCov -- is consistent with that of China.
When their cities and provinces are exposed to the virus, their citizens who seek to travel to Malaysia are banned from being in Malaysia for now. Nothing racist. It is all carried out in a manner consistent with what China itself is bravely confronting.
The fact is, coronavirus, according to Statnew.com, is the fifth form of flu over the last fifty years, with SARS being the fourth.
While 75 per cent of the coronavirus does resemble SARS, which is where the word "corona" comes from, since the genome and structure resemble the crown-like structure of the original SARS and other flu-like viruses, one must remember that they are not the same.
People can, and do recover from coronavirus. The mortality rate is still within the threshold of 2-3 per cent, as opposed to SARS which was 17 per cent in Hong Kong.
In a national address, Singapore Prime Minister acknowledged that the "virus" may already be in the community of Singapore. After all, a case was discovered where one local Singapore patient has had no contact or exposure to Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, let alone Macao.
To the degree the above is valid, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong urged Singaporeans not to panic by hoarding on masks, instant noodles or other such essentials.
Coronavirus may yet become seasonal. While the vaccine may take more than a year to produce, it could peak in May or June, then disappear accordingly before reappearing in winter-like conditions in the north, before going around the world once more.
The problem with coronavirus is its infectious nature. But if one avoids direct physical contact, or stays 1 meter or 1.5 meters from the next stranger in public places, coupled with the tendency to wash one's hands regular, and to prevent the hands from touching the mouth and nose unnecessarily, chances of keeping the spread of coronavirus in check is there.
Cases in Malaysia haven't spiked. Some, due to a combination of medicine and strong immunity have recovered from coronavirus. If anything else, coronavirus seems to target those who are already delicate and frail.
If this is the case, the focus of attention should be on the younger and elderly population in Malaysia. Children under the age of 2, for example, do not have a complete immune system yet. Those with chronic conditions like diabetes, or kidney ailments, in turn, would be most vulnerable to coronavirus.
In moments like these, it helps to focus on addressing the public health issue together with China, the World Health Organization, and the Center of Disease Control, perhaps even the Abdul Jaffee Center of Infectious Diseases at the Imperial College.
University of Science in Malaysia has had the privilege to contain NIPAH virus and SARS before. The quarantine center in Sungai Buloh has that capacity too.
Meanwhile, all political parties, especially Umno and PAS that seek to entice Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir should be watched warily. These are representatives and individuals who come with seeming gifts to form a pact. But the moment the likes of Bersatu engage with them any deeper, the standing of Bersatu in Sabah and Sarawak would be immediately compromised; granted that neither PAS nor Umno remain popular in either of the two states. Thus the priority of the country, as Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah has correctly affirmed, should be on coronavirus first. Everything else is secondary for now.
(Datuk Wira Dr. Rais Hussin Mohamed Ariff is the President/CEO at EMIR Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research.)