MCO will not reduce Covid-19 cases, says ex-deputy health minister

Dr Lee Boon Chye fears any gains made due to travel restrictions, will be lost when such restrictions are lifted.

PETALING JAYA: The extension of the movement control order (MCO) to Feb 18 will not make a difference unless proper measures are put in place, says former deputy health minister Dr Lee Boon Chye.

He said though it may slow down transmission due to travel restrictions and other movement controls, the number of cases will increase again once restrictions are lifted.

“Using MCO is a crude method in controlling the spread. It is not targeted and Covid-19 cases will surge again in no time,” he told FMT.

Earlier, senior minister for security Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that the MCO will be extended for another two weeks, after the current MCO ends on Feb 4.

Gopeng MP Dr Lee Boon Chye.

Lee also questioned the government’s plans, should the number of Covid-19 cases drop to 1,000-plus a day before Chinese New Year.

“What are they planning to do after that? They need to review what they have been doing wrong to avoid more MCOs,” he said.

With the data available from this current MCO since Jan 13, he said authorities now have more information on the locations of the transmissions.

“They need to immediately carry out contact tracing, within the first 48 hours of a reported case,” he said, adding that this is easily achievable due to the limited movement of people during the MCO.

Lee also said the government needs to form a national network with local community leaders, non-governmental organisations and associations to do contact tracing.

“In the event of a positive case, the network could immediately get in touch with those in their area. Only then will Covid-19 cases come down when the MCO is lifted,” he added.

The PKR Gopeng MP also questioned the cases that were reported more than a month late, referring to the three days when the number of cases per day breached 5,000, which the health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah had attributed to late reporting since last year by private clinics and hospitals.

“What is the story behind that? Was contact tracing done for these cases?” he asked.

He questioned a Berita Harian report quoting health minister Dr Adham Baba requesting 11,280 additional medical staff. The report said Adham intends to get the additional staff through the Public Service Department (JPA).

According to Lee, the red tape in having to go through JPA will take a minimum of six months to get the required staff as it has to start with the department making a request to Cabinet, to getting approvals and advertising in papers, and finally, to interviewing people.

“The minister should look at cutting the process to employ additional staff. We are fighting a war,” he said.

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