Monday, 14 June 2021: According to Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, the government is studying the possibility of relaxing the standard operating procedures (SOP) under the current lockdown, if daily Covid-19 cases drop to 4,000 cases or less.

The Center for Market Education (CME), however, believes that reduction of number of daily infections cannot be a strategy per se, when we aim to go back to a normal life and to avoid further damages in terms of unemployment, GDP losses and prolonged stagnation.

“The number of daily infections – explained Dr Carmelo Ferlito, CEO of the Center for Market Education – is a very questionable target and can easily be manipulated by playing with the number or the target of tests”. “Indeed – Dr Ferlito added – we need something much more comprehensive, otherwise, by taking into account only daily infections, we will have again growing cases after restrictions are eased, and the government once again will have nothing better to offer than lockdowns. This non-strategy will force Malaysia to experience hiccup lockdowns for another year or so. We need much more than this, the country cannot survive another year under these conditions. The poor will suffer in a way that we cannot even imagine”.

The Center for Market Education offers the following points for reflection and action:

  • As recently explained on the journal “Science”, minimizing R0 via lockdowns can only prolong the time taken by the pandemic to become endemic. The current R0 will keep mortality rate high for the next 20 years.
  • Our target should not be to minimize infections, but to increase them in a targeted way, allowing the strongest part of the population to develop targeted immunity, while the most vulnerable are protected with ad-hoc initiatives and home-care strategies.
  • A medical emergency needs a medical strategy: pharmaceutical research for effective treatments needs to be enhanced.
  • A new social pact is needed, based on mass, frequent and affordable testing:
    • Businesses have to commit to test their staff on a weekly basis, thanks to affordable tools made available by rapid testing technology.
    • On the other side, when mass, frequent and affordable testing is introduced, the government should commit to leave businesses to operate and to make their testing expenses tax deductible.
  • Mass and frequent testing will allow earlier detection of cases; detected infections will rise (because of the higher number of tests), but new cases will emerge when they are more treatable and therefore mortality rate, already very low, could be further lowered.
  • More investments are needed to strengthen the healthcare system, with a joint effort from both the government and private sector.

“What we suggest – Dr Ferlito concluded – is that minimizing infections is a non-strategy. Our recommendations aim to further minimize mortality, achieve targeted immunity and get back our lives, avoiding further social and humanitarian disasters”.

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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.