PETALING JAYA: The Omicron menace may be looming, but the sentiment now is that another lockdown could cause even more damage.
Business leaders have warned of disaster if the easing of restrictions is suddenly reversed to meet the new threat, while for healthcare experts, another round of movement control order would only be futile.
Universiti Malaya head of social and preventive medicine Dr Victor Hoe pointed out that another lockdown would only be disruptive for the people.
“Many people are just recovering from the last lockdown.
“Instead of tightening restrictions again, we should invest in preventive measures,” he told theSun.
Apart from the government and healthcare sectors, he said, all businesses should also put in place effective control and preventive measures.
Hoe was commenting on a statement by Senior Minister for Defence Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein that the government would consider delaying the transition into the endemic phase in the Covid-19 war with the emergence of the Omicron variant, which is said to be more infectious.
Hoe pointed out that whether or not Covid-19 is labelled as “pandemic” or “endemic”, it would not mean much to the people.
“Whatever you call it, the infection is still with us, still spreading within the community,” he said.
He said the difference is that it is spreading either in a constant and predictable pattern, which would make it endemic, or a sudden surge in infection locally, nationally or globally, which would then make it a pandemic.
Hoe said that even in an endemic, there would still be occasions when there is a spike in infection in selected areas.
He said pausing the transition to endemic phase would only affect the allocation of resources to manage the infection.
Hoe noted that in the last 22 months, the system that has been put in place has helped to identify the sources of infections and contacts more efficiently.
Malaysian Employers Federation president Datuk Dr Syed Hussain Syed Husman said the concern among employers is that another lockdown would only derail business recovery and cause severe disruptions in the supply chain.
“We have learned from past experience that lockdowns have an adverse impact on the sustainability of economic recovery, employment and mental health,” he told theSun.
Rather than another round of lockdown, Syed Hussain said, enhanced standard operating procedure (SOP) and booster shots would be more helpful.
“This will keep the economy humming along,” he said.
He said the government should continue to monitor the Covid-19 situation closely and ensure that every person is not only fully vaccinated but also given the booster dose where applicable.
“Enforcement should be enhanced and there should be constant reminders to the population to remain vigilant by continuing to strictly observe the SOP,” he said.
Malaysian Association of Hotels chief executive officer Yap Lip Seng said the on and off closures and travel bans had significantly disrupted the tourism sector.
“The hotel industry had been losing about RM300 million every fortnight and the future still looks very uncertain,” he told theSun.
He pointed out that a blanket lockdown had already proven ineffective. Instead, he said, it had only caused damage to the economy.
“The main concern as of now is that while we await full details on the Omicron variant, will the plans to reopen to international tourists be set back. The industry cannot sustain itself on domestic travel alone,” he said.
Small and Medium Enterprises Association (Samenta) secretary-general Yeoh Seng Hooi believes it is too early to speculate whether or not there will be a lockdown.
“We should continue with the current SOP and small and medium enterprises should continue to test their workers regularly and observe the SOP for their health and safety,” Yeoh said.
He added that rather than a blanket lockdown, the focus should be on maintaining the SOP and raising the percentage of booster doses administered.
Employers are concerned that another lockdown would only derail business recovery and cause severe disruptions in the supply chain. – Adib Rawi Yahya/THESUNpix