COVID-19: Heed calls by health experts, bipartisan approach crucial

By Lim Kit Siang


IF the Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin is right that Malaysia is set to achieve herd immunity within 18 months against COVID-19, from February after the arrival of the first batch of the initial vaccine supply, it means we will only be out of the woods in July 2022.

And yet, Umno wants to have the 15th General Election by the end of the first quarter this year!

It is sad and tragic to see how low a political party which had led the country to Independence and spearheaded the formation Malaysia had fallen, with its present leaders not only forgotten how its founding leaders had struggled and sacrificed for the nation in the early decades of the country.

But now, it is only obsessed with using the slogan of Malay unity to advance personal interests of its party leaders, and not the nation or the race.

Umno must remember that it was rejected by the Malaysian electorate in the 14th General Election and is now engaged in “three-kingdom” series of plots and counter-plots, with Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) and PAS to ensure that its present batch of leaders escape jail for corruption.

Back to the pandemic, what will be Malaysia’s cumulative total of COVID-19 cases and fatalities by July 2022?

It is a sad day for Malaysia that even before the arrival of the first shipment of vaccines, we will have overtaken China, where the COVID-19 pandemic started and has a population 40 times that of Malaysia, but Myanmar as well.

We are now third in Asean after Indonesia and Philippines in having the most cumulative total of COVID-19 cases.

By the projections of the Ministry of Health, Malaysia would overtake Philippines by the end of May making Malaysia the second nation in ASEAN after Indonesia with the most cumulative total of COVID-19 cases, and among the top 30-40 nations most stricken by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yesterday has been described as the “darkest day” for Malaysia in the COVID-19 pandemic, with Malaysia registering 2,643 new cases and 16 fatalities – the highest daily fatalities so far was the previous toll of 12 deaths on Nov. 3, 2020.

Is the government of Malaysia prepared to find out where it had gone wrong in its war against COVID-19, as we should not be among the top 30-40 nations in the world in cumulative total of COVID-19 cases, but in the region of bottom 130-150 countries, well after Thailand which is ranked No. 132 with 8,966 COVID-19 cases and 65 COVID-19 fatalities.

When will the Government finally spearhead an “all-of-government” and “whole-of society” strategy and approach in the war against the COVID-19 pandemic?

The Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, will announce on Monday COVID-19 public health measures as the infections surge near the 2,000 daily cases average.

Has the Government fully consulted the private health sector before drawing up its new strategy in the COVID-19 pandemic?

If the private health sector had been fully involved in the formulation of the COVID-19 pandemic strategy, there would be no need for an open letter by 46 public health experts to the Prime Minister urging the Government to increase the number of testings and to come up with clear guidelines so that asymptomatic and mild cases can be isolated at home to protect health care capacity for sick patients.

The signatories expressed “much apprehension and concern” with regard to the current status of the outbreak in the country.

They said: “Our national metrics paint a very bleak picture of COVID-19 pandemic management. Despite movement control orders (MCOs) and other health interventions, the daily reported cases are not decreasing.

“The cumulative incidence density (per 100,000 population) and the infection rate (active cases per 1,000 population) is not flattening, with the latest national Infection Rate registered at 0.879 per 1,000 population, meaning between eight and nine persons are actively infected for every 10,000 people.

“The testing positive rate (rolling seven-day average) is rising, registering 8.9% on Jan 3, 2021, well above the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) 5% benchmark of effective pandemic control and containment.”

The public health experts proposed ten “urgent and critical actions lest Malaysia slips into COVID-19 intensive care”, particularly Proposal 9 and 10, viz:

“9. A COVID-19 Task Force comprising a cross-sectoral and empowered team of subject matter experts must be immediately formed to provide evidence-based advice on a harmonised whole-of-government response across ministries and agencies. The COVID-19 Task Force will help steer the nation out of this pandemic by regularly presenting its recommendations and audit of the health economic impact of key decisions to the cabinet. To ensure independence of the Task Force, the Malaysian Medical Association, Academy of Medicine Malaysia, Malaysian Public Health Physicians’ Association and Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia are best positioned to select the members.

“10. Do not politicise the pandemic but instead secure a bipartisan consensus and approach to flatten the pandemic curve, accelerate efforts to achieve herd immunity as a form of community protection to co-exist with the coronavirus. The GE15 in the midst of an uncontained pandemic is an unmitigated disaster waiting to happen as the Sabah state election has exemplified.”

Before he announced the new strategy to bring the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic under control, the Prime Minister should meet with the public health experts in the private sector and the signatories of the Open Letter to the Prime Minister like the former director-general of health, Dr. Abu Bakar Suleiman, present and past presidents of the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) and other medical organisations.

That includes Dr. Subramaniam Muniamdy, Dr. Milton Lum, Dr. Mary Suma Cardosa, Dr. Mohamad Namazie Ibrahim, Dr Steven Chow, Prof Dr Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman, Dr Christopher Lee, Prof Dr Azizi Haji Omar, Dr Gunasegaran PT Rajan, Dr Hung Liang Choo, Dr Jahizah Hassan, Dr Jeffrey Abu. Dr Johari Bux, Dr Khor Swee Kheng, Dr Kuljit, Dr Muhamad Yusri, Dr Musa Mohd Nordin, Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar, Dr Zainudin Md Zin and Dr Zulkifli Ismail.

As the signatories concluded:

“This is the back-to-basics public health management of a pandemic which we trust the prime minister will consider urgently and seriously to mitigate the devastating consequences of the pandemic, protect the lives and livelihoods of our rakyat and to reset our economic recovery.”


Lim Kit Siang is the DAP MP Iskandar Puteri

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

Subscribe and get top news delivered to your Inbox everyday for FREE