By YS Chan
BASED on the sharp rise of COVID-19 infections, we seem to be on a runaway train. Eleven months after the first case was detected in our country, the total number on Dec 24 reached 100,316, averaging 300 cases per day.
In January this year, daily cases were at a record high, averaging 3,289 per day. Mercifully, the average dropped to 3,064 per day in February and 1,443 in March, which was maintained in the first two weeks of April, averaging 1,452 per day.
But after that, daily cases shot up by more than 1,228 on average over the past 16 days, at 2,680 per day. While all 14 days in the first two weeks of April were below 2,000, daily cases over the next 13 days were above 2,000.
More worrying were infections in the last three days of April, which have surpassed 3,000 daily. According to reports on April 28, the Health Ministry had projected that daily cases may breach 5,000 before the end of May, based on effective reproduction number.
If that being the case, we are returning to the record setting days when 5,725, 5,728 and 5,298 daily cases respectively were logged on the last three days of January. It was bad enough for total cases to jump by 41% from 44,748 in March to 63,219 in April,
Unless more effective measures are introduced, total COVID-19 cases in May is certain to surpass the 101,949 recorded in Jan and 85,793 in Feb. But if the average were to be 4,000 per day, the total will be 124,000 in May, and hitting 155,000 if averaging 5,000 per day.
The gravity of the situation becomes clearer when compared to countries that have managed the pandemic well. Based on the table below (published on April 25), the number of COVID-19 infections were 11,933 per million population for Malaysia. Then, only India did slightly worse, with 12,186 cases.
But we lost out to all other Asean countries with the Philippines recording 8,932 cases per million population, Indonesia 5,933 and Myanmar 2,609. We lost the rest by a mile with Thailand 758 cases, Cambodia 554 and Vietnam only 29. For comparison, Australia recorded 1,152 and China 63.
If international borders were to be opened for all countries right now, it is certain that the last five countries stated above would attract most of the tourists, plus Singapore. While some may visit Malaysia on essential travel, leisure tourists would give us a wide berth as long as local infections remain high.
On April 24, 2,717 cases were recorded and if we are heading towards surpassing 5,000 by the end of this month, our cases per million population will be hitting the roof and that could be the death knell of our inbound tourism. Sadly, outbound tourism would also be affected as other countries would be wary of travellers from Malaysia, just as it is now from India.
Hence, we need all hands on deck to contain daily infections. Otherwise, putting in efforts in other areas such as tourism promotions would be futile if we cannot rein in this COVID-19 runaway train. – May 2, 2021
YS Chan is Asean Tourism Master Trainer for travel agencies, master trainer for Travel & Tours Enhancement Course and Mesra Malaysia. He is also a tourism and transport industry consultant and writer.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.
Photo credit: Arab News