“If the World Health Organisation (WHO) can sing praises of Italy, I think it’s time the body acknowledges Muhyiddin for his handling of the Covid-19 crisis in Malaysia”
Raggie Jessy Rithaudeen
A nine-day statistical comparison of Covid-19 cases between Malaysia and Italy suggests that the Malaysian Movement Restriction Order (MMO), the brainchild of Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, may have helped reduce the spread of the disease.
According to the finding, not only did the number of reported cases in Italy and Malaysia parallel between the 13th and the 18th of March 2020 – the day the MMO went into effect, the daily difference was marginal, the highest being 12.4 per cent on the 18th of March 2020 itself.
However, Italy began to see a sharp rise in cases on the 19thof March 2020, while the number of cases in Malaysia continued to rise at a near-constant.
By the 21st of March 2020, Italy had reported 72.1 per cent more cases than Malaysia, indicating that the Covid-19 pandemic in Italy had truly reached emergency proportions.
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Ironically, Italy had enforced municipal lockdowns as early as the 21stof February 2020, covering eleven municipalities and affecting around 50,000 people.
The lockdown was initially meant to last until the 6th of March 2020.
However, on the 8thof March 2020, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced the expansion of the quarantine zone to cover much of northern Italy, affecting over sixteen million people.
One possible reason for the high number of cases and the spike witnessed in Italy could be the staggered implementation of its restriction order.
Initially, as Italy’s coronavirus infections ticked above 400 cases and its death toll hit the double digits, the leader of the governing Democratic Party, Nicola Zingaretti, posted a picture of himself clinking a wine glass, urging people “not to change our habits.”
Ten days later, as the toll hit 5,883 infections and 233 deaths, Zingaretti posted a new video informing Italy that he, too, had the virus.
That was on the 8th of March 2020.
Still, people were allowed to have family outings in parks and engage in outdoor activities, the only sign of a restriction being police cars and barricades blocking access into and out of quarantined zones and districts.
It was only on the 20th of March 2020 that the government of Italy sent in the army to enforce the lockdown in Lombardy, the northern region at the center of the outbreak.
But contrary to claims that “the lockdown measures implemented were the most radical outside China,” the lockdown in Italy was anything but radical, let alone nationwide.
And it wasn’t until the 21stof March 2020 that Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced the closure of factories and all non-essential forms of production.
But by then, Italy had 47,021 reported cases and was no longer a safe country to be in as there was no telling how many people had spread the disease in parks, cafes and other open areas, taking a leaf out of Zingaretti’s “don’t change our habits” guidebook.
Muhyiddin, on the other hand, went straight into red-alert and began planning an out-and-out, nationwide restriction order the minute cases ticked above the 400 mark even though there wasn’t a single reported death.
And people were constantly told “to change their habits” from day one as “everyone needed to do their bit in breaking the chain of infections.”
Perhaps this explains the 72.1 per cent difference between the number of cases in Malaysia and Italy on Saturday and why Muhyiddin’s MMO, which is just in its fifth day, is far more effective than Italy’s 32-day staggered lockdown.
If the World Health Organisation (WHO) can sing praises of Italy, I think it’s time the body acknowledges Muhyiddin for his handling of the Covid-19 crisis in Malaysia.