All eyes on PM’s announcement on MCO on Friday

PUTRAJAYA, 9 April 2020:

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is expected to make an announcement tomorrow on measures to control Covid-19 – which may include the status of the Movement Control Order (MCO).

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said he would brief the prime minister on Covid-19 situation tomorrow morning. “The Prime Minister will make an announcement on what needs to be done to control Covid-19 in the country.”

It was earlier reported the government would announce on Friday whether the MCO would be extended beyond April 14.

The first phase of the MCO was from March 18-31 before it was extended to April 14. The order was announced by the government as an effort to break the chain of Covid-19 infections in the country.

Dr Noor Hisham also said the ministry would look into Covid-19 data in the country to see the projection and trajectory of the infections in Malaysia.

“By looking into it, we will come up with a prediction whether we will have a surge of cases or not,” he said, adding that MoH has roped in a few agencies and statisticians to look into the numbers.

JP Morgan was reported previously as saying Covid-19 cases in the country would peak by mid-April.

Meanwhile, a local research team has recommended that the MCO be lifted in staggered phases. The researchers said the staggered lifting is paramount to resume economic activities in the country after some businesses came to a shuddering halt due to the MCO.

The team, led by Prof Dr Naomie Salim from the Faculty of Engineering of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, has conducted a research entitled “Covid-19 epidemic in Malaysia: Impact of lockdown on infection dynamics”.

Her team members from the same faculty are Dr Chan Weng Howe, Prof Dr Shuhaimi Mansor, Dr Nor Erne Nazira Bazin, Assoc Prof Dr Ahmad Athif Mohd Faudzi, Assoc Prof Dr Anazida Zainal, Dr Sharin Hazlin Huspi, Eric Khoo Jiun Hooi, Shaekh Mohammad Shithil, and a public health physician in epidemiology, Dr Safiya Amaran from the Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin.

Naomie said her team suggested that such implementation can be executed according to each location’s outbreak control level.

“It can be done by zones, based on Covid-19 health index, for instance, red zone (remain enhanced MCO), orange zone (continue MCO but increase alertness) and yellow zone (partial MCO with good practice of social distancing and hygiene).”

Red zones are districts with more than 41 cases, while orange zones have 20-40 cases, yellow zones (one-19 cases), and green zones are those with no cases of Covid-19.

The team cautioned the government cannot lift the MCO altogether as long as there are still new cases reported, as this may trigger another wave of infection.

They explained the first phase of MCO enforced showed some effect but was still inadequate to halt the Covid-19 outbreak – due to the lack of understanding and preparation of Malaysians.

They added that the second phase of MCO with enhanced measures may restrict movement, but this gradual enforcement may delay the break of this chain of infection.

Asked on their view should the government extend the MCO for the third time, her team opined all precautionary measures must be taken to restrict the contact of an infected person – especially those who are under home surveillance and self-quarantine.

Meanwhile, the research forecast the earliest possible for Covid-19 outbreak in Malaysia to peak is on April 19 and the latest estimated peak maybe end of May, depending on the type of prediction model.

The team has utilised a number of models, including the curve fitting with probability density function and skewness effect modelling, SIR model and System Dynamic model.

“Compared to actual total infected data from March 18 to April 6, curve fitting with probability density function and skewness effect modelling is the most accurate that has 99.99% of accuracy with an estimation of 5,637 positive cases.

“However, each model has its own strength…the SIR model basically gives us an idea where based on the current data, how the outbreak would progress and from that model, it shows that the impact of MCO in creating social distance and this helps flatten the curve.”

Naomie said a more detailed System Dynamic Model is able to show that the effectiveness of the MCO phase two is still not optimum.

On how they gathered their data, she said the team extracted data from various websites such as Worldometer, 2019 Novel Coronavirus Visual Dashboard from Johns Hopkins University Centre for Systems Science and Engineering, Ministry of Health Malaysia website, as well as from local news websites.

On the other hand, the team said that Malaysians can be empowered by getting adequate and timely information as they must understand the importance of MCO and the reason why it is implemented, thus increasing the MCO compliance level.

– Bernama