The number of fatality is closing to that of 53 in the Philippines and 68 in Thailand. Without comprehensive efforts to contain it, things may get out of control, especially when people start to panic and begin to flock government and private hospitals and clinics.
The directive by the government for general and private hospitals to attend to such patients, is good. However, the minister did not give guidelines as to how the charges at private hospitals and clinics can be reduced or waived as most of the people infected are from the middle and low-income brackets.
In the meantime, we cannot dismiss the fact that most of those infected by the disease were victims of circumstances, many of them live in the cities and crowded places.
The possibility of us contracting the virus is high in KL, Penang, Johor Bahru, Malacca, Ipoh and other populated areas. To bar the people from going out to work, schools and other places will not be the right option.
However, the risk is highest when we take the aeroplanes, trains, LRT and Putra-LRT, ERL, Monorail, public buses and ferry. Going to crowded places like the markets, shopping centres and cinemas will not guarantee anything unless you put on the mask.
Unfortunately, the price of surgical mask is on the rise due to high demand. From RM1 previously, you may now purchase it at between RM4 and RM10 as pharmacies and shopowners take advantage in making quick bucks.
The government must look into this too. If the situation worsens, government hospitals and clinics should give away the mask for free.
Educating the public alone is not sufficient. The methods of monitoring our entry points at airports, ports and the border should be intensified. We used to go all out to fight denggue fever and this time around, the burden is heavier.
Of course we cannot stop the people from taking a ride on buses, LRT or trains but we could at least ensure them of their health precautionary. Get them to wear the mask, even if they go to the wet market.