WE are into the second week of the movement control order (MCO), which has now been extended to April 14. Many have raised concerns that the Covid-19 pandemic may take months or even years to run its course and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel.
However, I believe we can predict the course of the epidemic in Malaysia by looking at the progression of Covid-19 in China, which first instituted a lockdown on Jan 23.
Analysing the chart from China’s National Health Commission (NHC), the number of new cases reached its peak after two weeks of lockdown. From there, the number of new cases started to drop and reached zero a month or so later.
Superimposing this on the Malaysian context, we started the MCO on March 18. Our number of new cases is expected to peak some time between the end of March and early April. If the measures we take during the MCO are effective, we would see a gradual drop in new cases to very low levels after one month, approximately in early May.
This scenario would likely come to pass if we do two important things.
Firstly, all of us must play our roles to minimise the spread of the virus. Obey the MCO. Stay at home. Practise social distancing, good personal hygiene and, more importantly, stay away from our elderly loved ones who are most susceptible to severe infection.
As Covid-19 can present with very mild symptoms, many people may be walking around with the virus without knowing it. Therefore, put on a mask if you have even the slightest cough or flu symptoms to prevent transmission.
Secondly, our government may need to make that painful but necessary decision to extend the MCO for at least another four to six weeks. This may stretch the MCO to somewhere close to Hari Raya time. If we extend the MCO further, we may expect no new cases by early May. We would need another three weeks for the virus to clear from those already infected.
As disheartening as it may sound, this measure would be the best and quickest way to come out of this outbreak. Look to China, which is now literally free from the coronavirus. If we do not take this drastic action, the epidemic would drag on, more people would be infected and more lives lost.
People are frustrated at being confined at home. Many businesses are already suffering, with some close to insolvency. Many workers who are paid daily wages, living hand to mouth, would have problems supporting their families. As doctors on the front line, we say to you that this loss of income pales in comparison to the risk of being infected and passing the infection to your loved ones.
Now is the time for all Malaysians to hunker down for one last push. Put aside our political differences; forget about happy hours at the pubs; forego the Ramadan bazaars. There is indeed light at the end of the tunnel. Together, we can defeat this virus.
This article was originally published by The Star Newspaper at https://www.thestar.com.my/opinion/letters/2020/03/28/hunker-down-and-well-win