KUALA LUMPUR, April 10 — Public health specialists today suggested allowing free movement in “green” zones that have not reported new Covid-19 cases in the past two weeks.
The Malaysian Public Health Specialists Association (PPPKAM) said public amenities could be opened in stages in such communities, starting with businesses, offices, public parks, followed by religious institutions, schools and other education facilities and finally organisation of public and private events. Events with more than 500 attendees should require approval from authorities.
“To secure the ‘green’ zones, there should be community empowerment where local members will assume the vigilant role as ‘eyes and ears’ of the MOH (Ministry of Health).
“The health authorities can be quickly alerted whenever an adverse event related to Covid-19 occurs,” PPPKAM president Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar said in a statement.
Green zones should be closely guarded, with people who leave the area be subjected to precautionary measures upon reentering their neighbourhood.
“For sustainability of the ‘green’ zones, technologies that can monitor the adherence and effective implementation of MCO (Movement Control Order) should be more widely used. It is for active surveillance and prompt action in any violations,” said PPPKAM.
All other zones with reported coronavirus cases should work to achieve “green” zone status before the MCO can be lifted.
According to MOH, as at noon today, there are only four green districts without any reported Covid-19 cases in the peninsula: Yan (Kedah), Machang (Kelantan), Hulu Terengganu (Terengganu), and Kangar (Perak). Most of the other green districts with zero reported infections are in Sarawak and Sabah.
The whole of Kuala Lumpur is in the red with 699 Covid-19 cases in the capital city. Lembah Pantai remains the hardest-hit district in the country with 424 infections. Selangor, Malaysia’s most developed state, reported 1,118 cases, with Petaling, Hulu Langat, Gombak, and Klang reporting coronavirus infections in the triple digits.
PPPKAM also urged MOH to share quality data with experts from academic institutions and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
“Maintaining two-way communication channels via social media, between the authorities and the masses is necessary for constructive community engagement.
“Although this will run risks of fake news dissemination etc, it has become inevitable and should be kept open so that information concerning grievances and problems at the ground can rapidly reach the government for quick implementation of remedial actions,” said Dr Zainal.
Covid-19 surveillance activities, especially in hotspots, should be heightened to detect both symptomatic people and those without any symptoms.
Positive coronavirus cases should be notified, including information like accurate records about timelines as well as proper classification, monitoring and management of person under surveillance (PUS), person under investigation (PUI), identification of severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) and Influenza-like illness (ILI).
“Contact tracing and monitoring can benefit through extensive use of available telecommunication technology like the MySejahtera application and allocating unique QR codes for every affected individual.”
In the long-term, PPPKAM recommended identifying vulnerable groups like the elderly, the very young, and the infirm.
Gatherings must be reduced to below 500 people, with anything above that figure requiring approval from health authorities.
Dr Zainal also suggested sero-prevalance studies among the community in the “green” as well as non-green zones to determine their protection status against Covid-19, as serology testing could identify the burden of disease.
“Those with low or zero levels of Covid-19 antibodies are at risk of future infections and should thus be eligible for vaccination, when a vaccine then becomes available.”
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is slated to announce at 4pm later today on whether the nationwide MCO, which has generally restricted public movements to 10km from their homes, will be extended beyond April 14.