Lock Down in Malaysia 2020: Lessons from Italy, China, South Korea & Russia Part 2

Continuing from Part 1 here

lock down

Malaysia recorded its highest increase of the COVID-19 cases today with 212 cases to a total of 1,518 cases and 14 deaths. As at now, 943 cases or 63% of the infection cluster was from the tabligh gathering at a mosque in Sri Petaling. The tabligh gathering was held late February when Malaysia already got COVID-19 confirmed cases and medical screening have commenced. Image source: MOH

Wuhan and many cities in China by now in February were in total lock down. More than 1,489 were dead with more than 64,268 confirmed cases reported around the world. By that time, the Malaysian government had also already warned the public about the danger of gathering at places packed with people, the symptoms of the virus and the almost daily urging from the MOH for anyone to come forward if they suspect being a carrier.

lock down

Different country took different approach to control and recover from COVID-19 infections. Not all measures worked for all countries but consistencies by the authorities and strict discipline by the citizens is a must. Image source: IS Global

Lessons from China

Mr Ouyang told the ABC that public health in his hometown of Zhongshan city in Guangdong province was a priority, and people must wear masks when they went out.

People in China wear masks to protect themselves and others, Dr Yang said, whereas in Australia it is seen as an indication that the mask-wearer is unwell.

“We have been particularly emphasising that people could contract the coronavirus via [close] contact, which can be avoided by washing hands and stopping large-scale public gatherings,” Dr Yang said.

China imposed unprecedented lockdowns on Wuhan and other cities in Hubei province on January 23, when the country’s reported cases rose to 571 and deaths almost doubled to 17.

In all, some 58 million people have been placed under unprecedented restrictions, with public transport and flights suspended, and the majority of shops and supermarkets closed. Residents in Wuhan remain in self-isolation.

As the number of new cases and deaths soared across China, dozens of cities and provinces issued official notices for lockdown policies, with measures ranging from “closed-off management”, where residents of a community have to be registered before they are allowed in or out, to restrictions that shut down highways and public transport systems.

(Source)

  • Mandatory Facial Mask
  • Enforce Hand Washing
  • Stopping Large Scale Public Gatherings
  • Public Transportation Suspended
  • Lock Down & Self Isolation

In Malaysia, it is difficult to even get facial mask from the local pharmacies, what more to force everyone to wear one when they venture out. Those who had stocked up the masks were wearing them whilst the rest of us were taking huge risk of being out without any mask. Worse some of these people seemed not well and coughing without any masks.

We also failed in stopping large-scale public gatherings – the 16,000 tabligh gathering at a mosque in Sri Petaling to the 30,000 participants of the Masi Magam Theppa Thirunal at Teluk Bahang Beach in Penang.

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Lessons from South Korea

In South Korea, the surge in COVID-19 cases surged early March due to a large people attending services at Shincheonji Church of Jesus. Image source: South China Morning Post

If China focussed on ldowns, South Korea on the other hand focussed on detection, detection and detection.

Jerome Kim, director general of the International Vaccine Institute, said one of the reasons South Korea has done so well is that it has a robust biotech industry made up of many small companies run by scientists.

“The Chinese published the sequence of the coronavirus. These companies looked at it and then they rapidly developed tests,” Kim said.

Korean companies acted fast to produce those tests and the country now has enough to screen some 20,000 people a day.

“They [South Korea] opened up testing centres that people could drive in and go through. They made it all free and once they identified people, they put them into quarantine,” Kim said.

In early February, the government also obtained mobile phone records, credit card receipts and other private data of everyone who tested positive for COVID-19, and used the information to track the spread of the virus, making much of the data available to the public.

(Source)

And the number of testing done by the South Koreans were simply impressive

Behind its success so far has been the most expansive and well-organized testing program in the world, combined with extensive efforts to isolate infected people and trace and quarantine their contacts.

South Korea has tested more than 270,000 people, which amounts to more than 5200 tests per million inhabitants—more than any other country except tiny Bahrain, according to the Worldometer website.

The United States has so far carried out 74 tests per 1 million inhabitants, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show.

(Source)

  • Tapping Private Companies Expertise
  • Rapid & Easy Testing
  • Mobile Virus Testing
  • Access to Private Data for Tracking

In Malaysia, with the bulk of the infection coming from the tabligh participants and a large number of them still missing in action, the government is still begging, pleading, asking, requesting these people to come forward to get themselves tested. Police informed that they know where these participants are so why they have not gone in force and grabbed these participants by their neck and quarantine them?

lock down

Russia was fast to open it’s borders with Chinese in January 2020 – back then Malaysia had about 7 confirmed cases reported. And Putin did not let loose 800 lions on public streets to ensure the residents stayed at home. Image source: Daily Mail

Lessons from Russia

Russia’s early response measures — such as shutting down its 2,600-mile border with China as early as January 30, and setting up quarantine zones — may have contributed to the delay of a full-blown outbreak, some experts say.

“Testing and identification of cases, tracing contacts, isolation, these are all measures that WHO proposes and recommends, and they were in place all the time,” she said. “And the social distancing is the second component that really also started relatively early.”

(Source)

  • Border Closing
  • Early Quarantine Zones
  • Implement WHO Measures
  • Social Distancing

Malaysia only took a more drastic measure to stop all foreigners from entering the country last week, by then, it is too late. If we had imposed a more stringent checking on foreigners coming into the country, we may have detected the tabligh participants from Brunei who were detected positive for the COVID-19.

Summary

In Malaysia, despite all red warnings blaring all over the place, these ignorant people went ahead and held a gathering of 16,000 with foreigners from around the world (they argued 12,500 but does it matter now?). The rest was history – the COVID-19 infections simply surged up and cause the country to go into a lock down. To make it worse, even after 3 weeks since the event was held, there are still many tabligh participants missing despite the many pleas from the authorities.

This for example is from the state of Johore:-

Police here have identified 75 individuals related to the Ijtimak Tabligh assembly at the Sri Petaling Mosque who have yet to be screened for Covid-19.

Johor police chief Datuk Ayob Khan Maidin Pitchay said these individuals were either participants of the assembly or had close contact with the participants.

He said the number included 57 foreigners, namely 29 Bangladeshis, 10 Rohingyas and eight Thais.

(Source)

Set aside the foreigners, why the remaining Malaysians still not reporting themselves to the authorities? Obviously some of these people are still in denial. They still don’t see the mistake of having a large gathering when there a loud call for social distancing.

Sabah Pas has rubbished claims by certain quarters who blamed tabligh members as the cause of Covid-19 spreading in the country.

In defending the Muslim missionary movement, the state party commissioner Mohd Aminuddin Aling said the group did not do anything wrong as they gather annually in a show of unity and to share religious knowledge.

“In times like these, I believe that the strength of our Muslim brotherhood is being tested. Sometimes, some simply pin the blame on the tabligh congregation.

(Source)

After recording the highest surge todate, the question is whether Malaysia in the right track on the lock down? Are we looking at the final peak before the number of cases can expect to drop? Or we are on track to match Italy? On the positive note,  there are success stories from other countries especially from China where the worst of the pandemic seems to be over with Wuhan no longer recording any new cases.

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