By John Isaac
THE Academy of Medicine of Malaysia has urged the government to extend the movement control order beyond the Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations.
It warned that a balik kampung exodus could spread the disease further, especially to the elderly, and there would be a failure of social distancing as travellers crowd into rest and recuperation stops along highways.
“A premature withdrawal or excessive relaxation of MCO restrictions will potentially undo all the good that has been achieved from staying home these past four weeks.
“The war against Covid-19 is far from over – many sacrifices have and will continue to be made this year,” the professional body said in a statement.
It said that while many would understandably wish to travel and spend time with relatives during Hari Raya, the events this year are unprecedented.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has made it necessary for social distancing to be the new norm for at least a period of time until the situation is well under control…
“Responsible behaviour in adhering to social distancing measures is required of everyone until a vaccine is made available.
“For this year at least, be it Ramadan, Aidilfitri or even Haj gatherings – there is a need for control, monitoring and possible banning of these gatherings,” the academy said.
The current Phase Two of the order is set to expire at the end of April 14. The Health Ministry is expected to provide data on April 10 for the government to decide whether to extend the order.
Meanwhile, Hari Raya is expected to fall on May 24, but the academy noted that other festivities, such as Harvest Festival (May 30 in Sabah) and Hari Gawai (June 1 in Sarawak), will follow soon after.
Health Ministry director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the ministry would propose several options for the cabinet to decide, while senior minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said any relaxation of the order’s restrictions would likely be based on the number of cases in each district.
Should the MCO be extended, the academy said, the government should redouble its efforts to soften the blow of the pandemic’s socio-economic impact on the nation.
“We are cognisant that this pandemic has and will continue to have major negative impacts on all aspects of the Malaysian economy, which is why robust whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches are needed,” it said.