PUTRAJAYA, Feb 15 — The government will likely replace the Movement Control Order (MCO) with a Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) after the lockdown is scheduled to end this Thursday.
The MCO has been imposed on the whole country except for Sarawak that is currently under CMCO until March 1.
“We propose to end [the MCO] on February 18. Before the 18th, we will make a decision with the National Security Council (NSC) on what’s next, but I can give you a clue that we will do CMCO,” Health Minister Dr Adham Baba told CodeBlue in an exclusive interview last week.
However, he said the CMCO will likely be implemented only in states where the Covid-19 infectivity rate, or Rt, is low. For states with high Rt levels, the MCO will be maintained. An Rt value above one means the virus is spreading.
The health minister said that inter-state and inter-district travel will be allowed between states under CMCO, but not states under MCO.
According to the Ministry of Health (MOH), as of yesterday, the Rt (reproduction number at a particular point of time) level in Malaysia was 0.89. Meanwhile, states like Penang (1.03), Kelantan (1.01), and Kedah (1.06) had an Rt level above 1.0.
All other states and federal territories — including Selangor (0.87), Kuala Lumpur (0.88), and Putrajaya (0.77) — had an Rt value below 1.0 as of yesterday.
The Rt level overall in Malaysia is on a decline since February 13. Besides Kelantan which had a Rt level of 0.92 on February 13, before rising to 1.01 yesterday, the Rt levels for Penang and Kelantan showed a decline since February 12.
The infectivity rate is based on reported Covid-19 cases, which in turn is based on the testing rate. According to MOH data, the number of people getting tested in Malaysia for coronavirus has declined from 61,483 people tested on February 10 to 24,275 people tested on February 14, while the positive rate (share of tests that are positive) rose in the same period from 5.35 per cent to 10.15 per cent.
“I hope before the 18th, it goes down,” said Dr Adham, referring to the Rt value. “That is why we need the support of the public to abide by these regulations.”
The MCO implemented from January 13, which has been extended until February 18, is different from the previous MCO back in March last year as the economic sector was allowed to function normally this time.
“We have released most of the economic sector, only inter-state and inter-district [travel] is not (allowed),” the health minister added.
Dr Adham said that if inter-district and inter-state travel ban is maintained until February 18, and if people adhere to standard operating procedures (SOPs), along with serious enforcement, daily recorded Covid-19 cases can be maintained.
In a statement on February 10, Dr Adham said that there were zero cases from inter-state clusters, which he said proves that the MCO is working.
Over the past three weeks, the average number of daily Covid-19 cases nationwide has shown a decline from 4,451 cases between January 25 and January 31, to 3,928 cases between February 1 and February 7. Average daily reported cases fell further to 3,117 infections between February 8 and February 14.
CodeBlue had previously reported that the decline in the number of daily coronavirus cases was linked to the reduction in the number of individuals getting tested. Between February 3 and February 9, when the daily recorded cases were below 4,000, Malaysia’s positive rate still remained high, exceeding the World Health Organization’s (WHO) benchmark of 5 per cent, which shows that there are more undetected cases in the community.
Dr Adham, however, said that it’s not true that MOH is not conducting enough tests. He explained that private laboratories delayed registering negative Covid-19 test results into the System Informasi Makmal Kesihatan Awam (SIMKA) database.
It is mandatory for private labs to register positive cases but because they manually enter the data into the system, they take a while to register negative cases, which explains why it looks like there’s not enough tests being conducted.
“Labs now, they send positive cases. The negative cases that they do they do not send,” Dr Adham told CodeBlue.
The health minister said MOH is conducting an engagement session with these private labs to ensure that the data is recorded on time.
“We are working now to correct the situation.”