KUALA LUMPUR, April 21 – The Ministry of Health (MOH) has outlined six criteria to end the Movement Control Order (MCO) that is scheduled to be lifted in a week.
The six criteria are border controls to prevent imported Covid-19 cases; movement control, like banning mass gatherings; a strong health care system with sufficient beds and ventilators; protection of the vulnerable, like senior citizens, disabled people, cancer patients, and those with underlying health conditions; new behaviours practiced by the people, like social distancing and frequent hand-washing; and controlling Covid-19 clusters in the community.
“We have six criteria to end the MCO. The first criterion is border controls. There’s a big possibility that those who come to Malaysia will bring the disease,” said Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah in a press meet today.
“Ninety-five Malaysian citizens who returned from overseas brought the disease. We have screened and put them in quarantine centres. Out of 95, 68 of them were from Indonesia, 12 from the UK, five from Singapore, four from Turkey, three from the Netherlands, two from the US, and one from France.”
The second criterion in ending Malaysia’s partial lockdown is movement control, he said.
“If we stay at home, the possibility of infection is less. But if there is congestion at gatherings, there will be a possibility of infection. if there’s a positive person, they can infect many in a confined place or gathering.”
The third criterion is the preparedness of the Malaysian health care system.
“We use PCR tests, [which gives results in] 24-48 hours. If possible, we want to reduce the time taken to do the PCR test to below 24 hours. We also look at our health care system, whether we have enough wards or ICU. If our system is good, it’s an indication before ending the MCO.
“Fourthly, [we must] take our actions to protect those at high risk, the aged, the disabled, those who get chemotherapy, and those with comorbidities.”
The fifth criterion, according to Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, is that citizens must adopt to new norms as part of their lifestyle, such as social distancing, hand washing, as well as avoiding gatherings.
“Sixthly, we have to look at how to identify areas and get the community together with MOH to implement preventive measures in the community,” he said.
“These are the six criteria or framework we have. We have to practice this in each ministry and department to see how we can get a soft landing for the exit strategy. We’re still in the discussion stage. This is just a framework, a discussion in terms of implementation.”
Dr Noor Hisham also expressed hopes of reducing daily increases of Covid-19 cases in Malaysia to single-digits in a week.
MOH’s framework in ending the MCO mirrors the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s new guidance for governments looking for exit strategies beyond existing lockdown measures, released a week ago.
Six criteria were identified in WHO’s guidance document to ensure that governments would be able to manage a controlled and deliberate transition from community transmission to a steady state of low level or no transmission.
Any government that wants to start lifting restrictions must first meet six conditions:
- Transmission of Covid-19 is under control.
- Health systems and public health capacity are able to detect, test, isolate and quarantine every case and trace every contact.
- Hot spot risks are minimised in highly vulnerable places, such as nursing homes.
- Preventive measures such as physical distancing and hand washing in workplaces have been establised.
- Controlled and managed risk of new import cases from travellers.
- Populations are fully engaged, understand and empowered to live under a new state of “normality”.
As at 12pm today, Malaysia recorded 57 new cases, bringing the total number of Covid-19 cases to 5,482. Three deaths were recorded today, bringing the total death toll due to Covid-19 to 92.