COVID-19: End flip flops, time for decisive action

By Dominic Tham


THE latest issue of The Economist contains a grim outlook of COVID-19 in this region. In its article titled ‘A worrying new wave of covid-19 is hitting South-East Asia’, the leading global current affairs magazine predicts that this region is set to be the COVID-19 hotbed after India, which has seen over 25 million infections and close to 280,000 deaths so far.

One of the reasons for this is the prevalence of the coronavirus “variant of concern” (VOC), which has also found its way into this region, Malaysia included. The mutated strains, with origins from India, the UK and South Africa, are harder to detect, spread much faster and have a higher fatality rate. The slow rollout of the vaccination plan in countries like Malaysia has only made things worse.

In Malaysia, new infections are climbing at a dizzying rate, as are the fatal cases caused by the coronavirus. On May 19, we recorded 6,075 new infections, an all-time high.

Despite the bleak outlook, the Malaysian Government’s response has not inspired confidence. The constant flip flops, incoherent announcements and the “working in silo” attitude prevalent in bureaucracy only goes to show that the Government is clueless on how best to tackle one of the worst national crises since Independence.

Take the Hotspot Identification by Dynamic Engagement (HIDE) system to determine the COVID-19 high-risk public spaces like malls and parks. Early this month, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin announced that premises listed under HIDE need not close their businesses unless ordered to do so by the Government.

Barely hours later, Senior Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob contradicted Khairy and ordered locations listed under HIDE to immediately close for three days for sanitisation.

The abrupt decision has not only caused disruptions to businesses, but has also resulted in stigmatisation of business premises listed under HIDE. In other words, businesses, which are already struggling, suffer even more losses due to the incompetence of people who’re supposed to take charge in managing the pandemic.

This lack of leadership and clear vision has only exacerbated the business community’s anxiety over whether Putrajaya has the mettle and wisdom to steer the country in the right direction.

As it is, our healthcare facilities are at breaking point. Do we want the horrific scenes of COVID-19 carnage in Delhi and Mumbai to be repeated in Shah Alam and Sibu? Has the Government not learnt from its past mistakes like half-hearted attempts to restrict social gatherings?

The uncertainty and leadership vacuum in tackling this certainly does not bode well for the Government, as far as the business community, including investors, are concerned.

At a time when Malaysia needs decisive leadership, the Government, through its action or lack of, is only fuelling uncertainties, and in the process, bringing the economy down with it. By doing so, it’s the people who will suffer the most. – May 20, 2021


Dominic Tham is a FocusM editorial contributor.

The views expressed here are of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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