Sunday, 18 April 2021: Malaysians are looking with tension and concern at the rising number of Covid-19 infections, while the expression “4th wave” already appeared in the media.

The Center for Market Education (CME) preliminary invites to look at these new infections as the tail of the previous wave, which began in September 2020, and that was the first actual wave of Covid-19 in Malaysia. The current one is just the natural tail of that wave, which was temporarily put at a halt with the movement restrictions; once again, it has been demonstrated that lockdowns do not “break the chain of infections” but, at best, they delay their appearance, like a lid on a boiling pot, which, sooner or later, needs to be removed. As stated in a recent paper published by SCIENCE, such an approach can bring the pandemic to last 10 years.

“We invite the government to openly admit that the current containment approach, based on the one-policy-fits-all approach, has failed”, said Dr Carmelo Ferlito, CEO of the Center for Market Education.

“It is time to recognize that we need a targeted strategy, like advocated by the Great Barrington Declaration”, Dr Ferlito added.

The Center for Market Education invites the government to produce disaggregated and detailed data on the age and medical conditions of the people who passed away because of Covid-19. These data can help the population to individually assess their risks.

CME invites to abandon the stubbornness in being alarmed by the number of infections and invites to focus on mortality: to get sick is not the main issue, to survive is. With a survival rate of 99.63%, Malaysia is scoring well, while we need now to focus on a protection strategy for those individuals who fall into the 0.37% mortality rate. 

A containment strategy needs to be focused on protecting categories at risk, while allowing the stronger part of the population to have a normal life, eventually get infected and develop immunity. 

“Every delay in returning to normality, including travelling, – added Dr Ferlito – will disproportionately weigh on the poorer segments of the population. Lockdowns are regressive. There is no distinction between livelihoods and lives, because harming livelihoods means harming lives and putting them more at risk in the long run”.

In advocating for a targeted-protection approach, the Center for Market Education emphasizes that it would allow to save resources in generalized subsidies and to invest more where it is needed: hospital beds and R&D for a long-term treatment. Under this respect, one year has been lost by stubbornly insisting in ineffective measures like the movement control.

At the same time, more creative initiatives need to be implemented for avoiding disruptions to the most essential service of all: education. Infections happen in schools because they are a close environment, often characterized by bad lightening and ventilation. Malaysia is blessed by a favorable weather: why not to start conducting open-air classes, so to support the immune system of students with vitamin D and proper ventilation? 

A targeted-protection approach, then, would allow for a faster achievement of immunity, while at the same time saving lives and jobs. 

The success of any future strategy will very much depend on avoiding to do what we have done wrong so far. 

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About CME: The Center for Market Education (CME) is a boutique think-tank based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. As an academic and educational institution, CME aims to promote a more pluralistic and multidisciplinary approach to economics and to spread the knowledge of a sounder economics, grounded in the understanding of market forces. In order to do so, CME is not only involved in academic initiatives, but it organizes seminars, webinars and tailor-made economics classes for students, journalists, businesspeople and professionals who wish to better understand the relevance of economics for their daily lives and activities. Economics matters and needs to be presented in a fashion in which the link with reality is clearly visible. In this sense, we look not only at theoretical economics but also at policy making, with an emphasis on the unintended consequences generated by political actions.