Malaysia extends anti-virus lockdown until June 9

Soldiers wearing face masks patrol next to barbed wire at a newly locked down coronavirus affected area at old town of Petaling Jaya, Malaysia on Sunday. (AP)
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Updated 11 May 2020

Malaysia extends anti-virus lockdown until June 9

  • Move to curb mass movement of people during Ramadan, officials say

SINGAPORE: Malaysia has extended its nationwide lockdown until June 9 to curb the movement of people during Ramadan and Eid celebrations at the end of the month, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said in an address to the nation on Sunday.

“On the advice of the Health Ministry and the National Security Council, I would like to announce that the conditional MCO (movement control order) effective until May 12, will be extended until June 9 or another four weeks,” he said.
Ramadan is an important month for Muslims across Malaysia who comprise 60 percent of the total population of 32.37 million.
However, Malaysia is also home to a multicultural society, where almost all religious and cultural festivities are celebrated and considered a national holiday.
“During this period, there are major festivals celebrated and these will usually involve a mass movement of people, namely the Hari Raya Aidilfitri and the Harvest Festival. Thus, I would like to remind people that the interstate movement ban is still in force during this period,” Muhyiddin said.
It is common practice for Malaysians to travel across state borders to visit their grandparents and relatives during festivities and public holidays, with several hosting large gatherings as part of Ramadan celebrations.
“I know many people are sad as they are unable to return for the holidays in the village with the family,” said the 72-year-old Malaysian leader, urging Malaysians to “be patient” and wait until thing return to normal.
However, the public is allowed to visit neighbors and relatives and celebrate festivities within state borders, while spouses with partners working in different states are exempted from the ban.

FASTFACT

Ramadan is an important month for Muslims across Malaysia who comprise 60 percent of the total population of 32.37 million.

As an additional measure, a maximum of 20 people are allowed to gather at a time, as long as they practice proper social distancing and hygiene measures.
While most places of worship remained closed on Sunday, authorities said that they were considering whether or not to allow Friday prayers and other congregational prayers during the month.
Malaysia imposed the Movement Control Order (MCO) on March 18 to flatten the coronavirus curve.
With a significant decrease in the infection rate, the latest tally stands at less than 100 cases, with 5,025 recoveries reported.
As part of efforts to gradually build up the country’s economy, Malaysia eased the MCO earlier this week to allow most businesses to operate.
Experts commended the move, with Malaysian physician and public health specialist, Dr. Khor Swee Kheng, telling Arab News on Sunday that he “welcomed the extension.”
“Malaysia has to prepare for an ultra-long-term strategy for COVID-19, as we will be in this until 2021 at least. This means strategic and predictable decision-making, not short-term reactions,” Dr. Khor said, adding that a “phased restart of public life was imperative.”
“The longer the MCO or CMCO lasts, the more important it is to focus on the social determinants of health. Citizens and residents of Malaysia must receive adequate economic, social and psychological support, not only health care. The social safety net must be strengthened now,” he said.


Pregnant mom, unborn child die in India

Updated 08 July 2020

Pregnant mom, unborn child die in India

  • Devastated family mourn latest victim of health system struggling to cope with outbreak

NEW DELHI: The death of an expectant mom and her unborn child after 13 hospitals in one day refused to treat her has put India’s strained health care system under the spotlight.

The devastated husband and 6-year-old child of eight-month pregnant Neelam Singh, 30, are still struggling to come to terms with the “unwarranted loss” a month after her agonizing death in an ambulance outside a hospital in New Delhi.

With more than 100,000 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the Indian capital, Singh became another victim of a health system battling to cope with patient demand due to a lack of bed space and infrastructure.

That, however, has been little comfort for her family members who said they would never be able to overcome the trauma.

“Those 12 hours were the most traumatic experience of our lives, and we have to live with that trauma,” Shailendra Kumar, Singh’s brother-in-law, told Arab News on Tuesday. Singh had developed complications with her pregnancy on June 5, and Kumar said she was rushed to the same hospital in Noida, Uttar Pradesh where she had been going for regular checkups, but was turned away.

“Shivalik (hospital) gave no reason for refusing to admit her. Despite our pleadings, the hospital did not budge from its stand,” Kumar added.

A day-long ordeal ensued, with one hospital after the other unable to treat her. Eventually, she died in an ambulance some 35 kilometers away from her home in Khoda.

“I took her to 13 hospitals, both government and private facilities, and every one refused to admit her. The image of her writhing in pain will always haunt me,” said Kumar, who was accompanied by Singh’s husband. He added that the reasons provided varied from “high costs” to a lack of facilities.

“One hospital told me that I could not pay the high cost so better try my luck somewhere else. At Sharda Hospital in Greater Noida, I was asked to buy a coupon for COVID-19 treatment for 4,500 rupees ($60), which I did, but still, they refused her entry. It was not the loss of one life but two lives,” he said, referring to her unborn child.

He pointed out that the entire family was in a state of shock following her death with her husband “the worst impacted.”

Kumar filed a complaint against Shivalik and other hospitals but said so far “no action has been taken.”

A day after Singh’s death, the district magistrate of Gautam Buddh Nagar, which Noida falls under, ordered an inquiry and issued instructions for all hospitals “to admit patients regardless of the nature of the case.”

However, 20 days later, on June 26, a similar incident was reported in the Dadri area of Noida.

On that occasion, 21-year-old Robin Bhati had developed a fever, and relatives had taken him to a nearby hospital where a week earlier he had been admitted suffering from influenza. However, the hospital refused to admit him and referred him to a different facility.

Five hours and four hospitals later, a city hospital agreed to take him in, but by then Bhati was already seriously ill and hours later he died after suffering a heart attack.

“We don’t know whether he was a COVID-19 patient or not, but why should hospitals refuse to admit a patient in need of immediate attention,” his uncle Jasveer Bhati told Arab News. A number of the Noida hospitals which allegedly denied admission to Singh and Bhati refused to comment on the cases.

In a statement on Monday, the office of Noida’s chief medical officer said: “Strict instructions have been given to all the private and government hospitals to admit all patients showing COVID-19 symptoms.”

Dr. Loveleen Mangla, a pulmonologist working with Noida-based Metro Hospital and Heart Institute, said: “The government did not prepare itself to face this situation. Now the government is trying to create extra beds and medical facilities, but it’s late. They should have done this three months ago when the nationwide lockdown started.

“With the entire medical infrastructure overstretched and not many quality health workers available in the government hospitals, it’s a grim scenario now,” Mangla added.

With more than 723,000 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, India is now the world’s third worst-affected country after the US and Brazil, with approaching 21,000 people losing their lives.

And the problem is not unique to northern India.

On Saturday, the southern Indian city of Bangalore reported the case of 50-year-old Vasantha, who was rejected by 13 hospitals before she was accepted by the K.C. General Hospital where she eventually died.

Lalitha, a relative of Vasantha, said: “Some hospitals said they didn’t have beds; some said they didn’t have COVID-19 testing facilities, and that way we lost critical hours. She died because of a problem with her respiratory system.”

Experts have questioned whether health care facilities in India are being overstretched purely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Anant Bhan, a Delhi-based independent researcher in global health, policy and bioethics, said: “Is there a real shortage of beds or is it the shortage caused by lack of efficient management? If the cases increase further, we might find it difficult to provide care.”