As at the time of writing, the Movement Control Order (“MCO”) is expected to be in place until 14th April 2020. The Health Director General, however, has not ruled out the possibility of a further extension of the MCO. It is all dependent on whether Malaysia succeeds in flattening the curve and preventing any exponential spikes, thus breaking the chain of infections.
It cannot be denied that COVID-19 is highly contagious. The virus has an estimated R naught of somewhere between 2.0 and 2.6, with the average being 2.2. This means that for every 1 infected person, COVID-19 could spread to 2.0 to 2.6 other people.
Early figures have shown that the MCO is successful in flattening the curve. However, the World Health Organisation has also stated that it expects the number of COVID-19 cases in Malaysia to peak in mid-April.
Apart from the expected peak in cases, a persuasive reason for extension in and of itself, the following are some reasons why a further extension of the MCO is inevitable.
There are untested infected individuals
With regard to the tabligh cluster, the Health Director General stated on 27th March 2020 that 13,762 individuals were screened with 9,327 samples taken to be tested. 1,117 of the samples tested positive, 5,646 tested negative, while 2,564 were still pending results.
As at 28th March 2020, 5,084 individuals connected to the tabligh cluster (including attendees, their family members, and other close contacts) had yet to be tested.
1,117 out of the 6,763 individuals whose results are available were found to be infected with COVID-19 (16.50%). Assuming 16.50% of the remaining 7,648 individuals (2,564 awaiting results and 5,084 untested) from the tabligh cluster are infected with the virus, this would mean an addition of approximately 1,262 COVID-19 cases.
Not forgetting individuals who may have contracted COVID-19 from inter alia having travelled overseas.
Some of these untested infected individuals may be asymptomatic. Others may only have mild symptoms and are able to manage their illnesses at home. However, during that time, these untested infected individuals will certainly be in contact with their family members who may then be out and about during the MCO period thereby further spreading the virus.