In an interview with Astro Awani on 10 April 2020 just after the announcement of the extension of the movement control order (MCO), Prof Datuk Awang Bulgiba Awang Mahmud touched on some very important issues that the country will be facing.
Prof Awang reminded us that the battle against COVID-19 will be a long drawn war and the new norm of social distancing or physical distancing will persist for another 12-18 months. This is till we have a definitive treatment or vaccine against the SARS CoV 2 infection.
The next wave of COVID-19 will come from the legal and illegal immigrants currently in Malaysia and those that will be coming. The issue does not only lies in stopping the influx of immigrants and ensuring they are quarantine but also to look at the living condition of the immigrant that is already in Malaysia. As highlighted in the news lately, some of our immigrant workers are staying in cramp quarters, which is a risk for the spread of infectious diseases like the COVID-19.
He further stress that individual action is very important for the good of the masses to ensure that Malaysia will come up victorious in the COVID-19 battle. Malaysian need to embrace and adhere to the new norm of work, school, and interaction.
To ensure that we are prepared for any future pandemic, public health preparedness is very important. Prof Awang mentioned that public health preparedness is one of the main subjects that we teach in our Master of Public Health and Doctor of Public Health programmes. Moving forward, there should be a network of regional public health specialists to advise leaders of the individual countries and to plan for the next pandemic. Prof Awang concluded that a regional public health response is key to the success of this and any future pandemic.