How effective are nationwide lockdowns?
After a month of FMCO, the government has intensified lockdown procedures to an Enhanced Movement Control Order (EMCO) in most localities in the Klang Valley due to a worrying increase in Covid-19 cases. Is this the right way forward to controlling and combatting the pandemic?
In an interview with ASTRO Awani, REFSA Communication Director Iskandar Fareez points out that the implementation of the EMCO, by extension, signifies the failure of the FMCO (imposed on 1st June) and the National Recovery Plan (NRP). Some of his key points:
– The FMCO has not resulted in any significant drop in daily cases, with the exception of several occasions due to lower testing – which dangerously provides a false sense of security.
– Both the FMCO and NRP failed to include a systematic system for mass detection and containment (e.g. the Find, Trace, Test, Isolate, Support + Vaccinate (FTTIS+V)) .
– To make things worse, this is also largely absent in the EMCO strategy.
Unfortunately, banking only on harsher lockdowns without a comprehensive strategy (see Strategy 1 and Strategy 2 of REFSA’s #ProjekMuhibah) will only make life tougher, prolong economic damage and impair Malaysians’ ability to rebound. This is becoming increasingly evident with the emergence of several rakyat-led movements to support the most vulnerable groups. For example, the #BenderaPutih campaign where Malaysians are urged to help those who raise white flags with basic necessities to survive.
Iskandar stressed that the government should firstly, ramp up testing as a more effective way to detect and contain the virus. Subsequently, reopening of economic sectors should be evaluated based on the risk of virus transmission with science and data, not solely based on it being an ‘essential’ or ‘non-essential’ service.
Many of the recent clusters are from workplaces which have been allowed to operate during the FMCO. In other words, allowing ‘essential’ services to operate with ineffective Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) might do more harm than good. Conducting proper risk assessments allows us to mitigate the risks and responsibly reopen sectors with low risk of transmission.
Malaysia’s continuous lockdowns are inflicting adverse effects on the people, especially psychologically. We have to improve our approach towards the crisis as many fronts are already showing alarming consequences.