Virus Elimination Is Not MCO’s Endgame: Penang Rep

Dr Afif Bahardin says Malaysia can’t close businesses and schools for 18 months while waiting for a Covid-19 vaccine.

KUALA LUMPUR, April 14 – Seberang Jaya assemblyman Dr Afif Bahardin said today his barber lost up to RM5,000 in monthly income after four weeks of Malaysia’s partial lockdown.

The PKR lawmaker said his barber, who runs a small barbershop with a younger brother in a residential flat on Lebuh Tuna in Seberang Jaya, managed to earn up to RM5,000 a month before the Covid-19 pandemic hit Malaysia.

“Since the beginning of Movement Control Order (MCO), he obliged with the ruling and closed his barbershop. Now after 4 weeks, he has lost his monthly income that he uses to pay his shop rental, house rental and daily expenditure to fend his wife and baby boy,” Dr Afif tweeted.

Dr Afif added that Covid-19 has caused small traders like barbers to close shop and lose their daily income. The pandemic has weakened and stalled daily economic activities which are essential and crucial.

He explained that the purpose of the nationwide partial lockdown was to reduce coronavirus transmissions, but not to completely eliminate the disease.

“As a doctor, I can’t deny the fact that MCO did help in our effort to combat Covid-19. However we must also admit that MCO is not the answer to curb this pandemic,” said Dr Afif, a doctor-by-training.

“The very purpose of MCO is to flatten the curve and allows us to reduce the number of transmission of this virus — but not to eradicate it.”

Dr Afif Bahardin, Seberang Jaya assemblyman

Dr Afif pointed out that developing a Covid-19 vaccine could take up to 18 months.

“I do not dare to suggest for the government to close down barbershops and small businesses for 18 months. Do kids have to stay at home and learn from online classes for 18 months?

“Do governments continue to pay full salary to majority civil servants while they “work from home” for the next 18 months? Do we stop entrepreneurs from returning to operation for 18 months and expects them to pay full salary to all their employees?”

He also said that the financial aid provided by the government under the Prihatin scheme will not help address the problem in the long-term.

“Financial aid cannot solve the problem in the long run for the ill-affected service sectors such as haircut services and small business owners. They must be allowed to adopt the ‘new normal’ the soonest and restart to earn.

“A ‘new normal’ approach does not only apply to those who just stay at home and hoping this pandemic ends sooner. Government and private sectors must make a bold decision on how to create [a] new approach in ensuring these sectors are kept alive and in the near future helps to revitalise the country’s economic growth.”

Despite an announcement on April 10 that barbers, hairdressers and opticians would be allowed to reopen during the third phase of the MCO starting tomorrow, the government on April 13 retracted the approval after public uproar.

The Malaysian Hairdressing Association said last Saturday that 91 per cent of hairdressers in its survey disagreed that hair salons should resume business during the nationwide partial lockdown, pointing out that it was impossible to maintain a distance of one metre during haircutting.

But Dr Afif claimed that his barber would want to resume his operations.

“In that very phone call conversation with my barber, I asked him whether he can provide barber services during MCO. Immediately, he answered ‘Boleh sangat!’.

“However he did mention that he needed to understand and willing to learn the precautions and preventive measures to protect him from contracting the viruses. As long the guidelines by the experts are obtained, he is willing to provide a safe, hygienic barber service to customers.”

Dr Afif explained that certain service sectors were allowed to resume business in phases with strict medical guidelines and movement controls.

“The most unkindest cut on these sectors is to deny them alternatives and any other measures that can help these entrepreneurs to adopt to the ‘new normal’,” he added.

“It will bring forth a detrimental effect in the long-run to the owners of those services, and also undermining the economic viability of the country which will lead to economic catastrophe.”

His tweet, which has since received five likes and five retweets since it was posted at 1.46 pm today, has been slammed.

“Barbershop is a potential cluster, unless we want to throw everything down the drain for the past 4 weeks of what MCO did, go ahead, be reckless and be irresponsible, let’s allow Covid 19 virus to have an open season,” said @dengar_kata as response to Dr Afif’s tweet.

Dr Afif was previously condemned by Malaysians when he claimed that getting a haircut could help reduce blood pressure, citing a research study.

“The New England Journal of Medicine has found that haircuts can lower one’s blood pressure – something being felt by Malaysians now,” he said, according to The Star.

“Additional economic sectors will also be (allowed to resume operations) in phases, with health care guidelines and tight movement control.”

Malaysians nationwide disagreed to his statement, claiming that there are other ways to alleviate blood pressure other than getting a haircut.

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