CORONAVIRUS : Movement Control OrderEditorial
A continuing saga
Malaysia is now completing the first week of a movement restriction order (MCO). This was put in place to enforce social distancing and break the chain of transmission. As the numbers of infected rise, the end is certainly not near and likely the MCO has to be extended. COVID19 is the name given to this disease from a virus, SARS COV-2. Yes it is a relative of the original SARS virus and do share some similar properties.
There is a lot of confusion, fanned in part by fake news, about this coronavirus and what we should be doing. For example, wearing a face mask. The Ministry of Health has reiterated that a face mask is not necessary for the general public. This has been echoed by the World Health Organisation (WHO). However, it appears that there is a sense of security with wearing this especially with compelling visuals from China, literally the only success story to date, aired in the media where everyone is mandated to wear a face mask. The logic is that this will prevent individuals who are unknowingly affected by this from spreading this around. So with everyone wearing a face mask, this will act as another safety measure in addition to social distancing and hand washing.
Moreover, the shortage of supplies, even if it hasn’t occurred in Malaysia, is bound to happen as this pandemic escalates. Frontline healthcare workers will be in dire need of these supplies. Cloth face masks doesn’t appear to be as effective as surgical masks, but some barrier is likely better than none at all. Ultimate message is the importance of personal hygiene, social distancing and frequent proper hand washing.
Being tested for COVID19 is not easy as well. South Korea is a shining example of mass testing being effective in containing the disease. However, the cost of testing for COVID19 is high and the turnover time takes at least 24 hours or even more if the backlog of cases has not been cleared, as with the current scenario in Malaysia. This delay means not identifying positive cases fast enough to contact trace and isolate, which in turn means, the infection continues to spread. Rapid testing for COVID19 detecting IgM/IgG antibodies only tells us that they have been exposed. In addition, there may be a window period where it will be negative, giving a false sense of hope and delaying seeking medical attention. On the flip side, if we are unable to cope with PCR testing, then antibody testing may have to become the test to widen the scope of testing with the caveat that confirmatory gold standard test will be the PCR technique.
A vaccine is likely going to take much longer to produce. Experts are gauging roughly a year. By that time, the virus will likely have dissipated. Current treatment regiments are not entirely effective from anti-malarials, antibiotics and antivirals to targeted therapies eg tocilizumab, a monoclonal antibody to reduce the inflammatory burden responsible for much of the lung damage. Unfortunately, death tolls are escalating at the time of writing.
This saga will go on for the next few months dictating the narrative in the lives of most. It should be a reminder that even in the absence of a pandemic, social etiquette should be ingrained in society. COVID19 has highlighted the fragility of human civilisation. It is likely we will overcome this pandemic at a certain cost. Once we do, it may be time to prepare for the next big one, one that not only is highly contagious but highly deadly as well.