Sin Chew Daily
On January 7, the country reported a record of 3,027 new COVID-19 cases, with the number of new cases in Klang Valley, Johor and Sabah remaining high.
Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the basic reproduction number (R0) had increased back to over 1.1, and therefore the daily number of new cases would continue to rise in the days to come.
He said at a press conference on Wednesday that the health ministry felt concerned about the trend of 4-digit daily new increases, adding that this had put a lot of pressure on the country's healthcare system. As a result, some hospitals might not be able to accommodate more patients.
He also said the government must review the measures adopted since October 14 last year as well as the decision to relax the rules from December 7.
It is time to reconsider the strategies and draw up more specific and targeted measures in order to strike a balance between economy and bringing the virus under control.
Hearing this, many have speculated that the government could reintroduce MCO 2.0 next week.
Prior to that, this rumor had already spread like wildfire mostly because of the staggering daily new infection numbers in recent months, and the fact that most of the new cases have involved work places and construction sites.
The national security council later clarified that it had not made any decision yet on this matter and urged the public to stop spreading unverified information.
Many people have been especially concerned about such information for fear the virus outbreak would go out of control in this country and deal a severe blow on all economic sectors.
As Noor Hisham has said, the healthcare system may be overwhelmed anytime soon, while increasing infection numbers mean more new infection clusters that will pose serious threats to the health of Malaysians, as well as their livelihoods.
If the outbreak deteriorates, sure enough the national economy will take a heavy beating, sending unemployment rate soaring and commercial activities abruptly halted. The consequences are simply too disastrous.
The authorities and members of the public have quite different views on fighting the virus.
Many are unhappy that the government's earlier decision to lift cross-state and cross-district travel bans and even encourage Malaysians to go cuti-cuti. Many also hit out at local manufacturers and construction companies for failing to screen their foreign workers and the pathetic living conditions at foreign worker hostels, giving rise to new infection clusters that intimidate the residents nearby.
The new academic year will start on January 20, but with the growingly bleak outlook of the pandemic here, many parents are beginning to doubt whether to send their children back to school. So far there have been no announcements from the education ministry on the SOPs or new arrangements, and this has worried the parents more, in particular those living in red zones.
The uncertain outlook and lack of consistent and systematic measures from the government have encouraged the spread of lies and unverified news. Many people tend to forward such unverified information to their friends and relatives on the social media out of "concern" for their loved ones, often without the initiative to cross check the information.
As a matter of fact, if we were to carefully read what Noor Hisham said, we should find that he did not imply that the NSC had already made a decision. He said there is no "one size fits all" solution to break the infection chain, and he therefore proposed more targeted approach to deal with the varying situations in different states, districts or even individual clusters. He believes the government has the wisdom to make the right decision at the right time.
Former deputy health minister Lee Boon Chye has offered a three-pronged proposal that includes mandatory tracing of close contacts within 48 hours, EMCO in specific areas and free vaccination for targeted groups. This should serve as a good reference for the health ministry.
Finally, it is our hope that all Malaysians wait patiently for the government's decision on battling the virus and stop spreading lies for the time being, triggering unnecessary anxiety among the people.
We can air our views through appropriate channels such as voicing up to our elected reps instead of conveniently forwarding a piece of unverified news.