THE current spike in COVID-19 cases has led the government to implement the conditional movement control order (MCO) in Sabah and the central region of Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.
Some have questioned the necessity of such a measure.
We are at a crucial juncture of the outbreak in these two regions. Hence, we should not play the blame game but rather explore how we can reduce the impact of this third wave together. With a mostly susceptible population, large outbreaks are always going to be difficult to prevent.
The pillars to prevention remain physical distancing, hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene and the use of face mask as indicated.
The most effective prevention activity is physical distancing, but it is also the most difficult to enforce. Many a time, physical distancing is not an individual choice but is dictated by our environment.
More than 75% of the Malaysian population live in urban areas. Urban populations live in relatively dense areas that make physical distancing very difficult. Furthermore, urban transport systems are commonly not able to cope with physical distancing. The density of urban locales varies and adds a layer of complexity to the ability to practise physical distance.
In short, physical distancing aims to decrease the population density, and this is not easy to implement in urban centres.
These are significant reasons why physical distancing becomes a less effective intervention in urban centres and fails when community transmission is elevated. That is why a more intense restriction of movement intervention is needed.
The interventions proposed by the current conditional MCO, including work from home, school closures and restricting large gatherings, are excellent short-term solutions to reduce the intensity of Covid-19 transmission. These measures reduce foot traffic and mixing of the community.
Allowing economic activities to continue may decrease the effectiveness of a movement restriction intervention but it would increase its sustainability.
The pandemic is here for the coming future and we need to plan for the long term and use sustainable measures.
The conditional MCO is a necessary inconvenience we need now for the current battle against this latest COVID-19 outbreak. Stay safe.
PROF DR SANJAY RAMPAL
*The opinion piece was written by Prof Dr Sanjay Rampal and was first published in the Star Newspaper on 14 Oct 2020.