COVID-19: M’sia’s lacklustre performance is eroding public trust

By Lim Kit Siang


FROM No. 85 on Nov 18, 2020, Malaysia has set a world record and jumped 36 places in two-and-a-half months to be ranked No. 49 now among countries with the most cumulative total of COVID-19 cases.

I had expected Malaysia to be ranked among the top 50 countries with the most cumulative total of COVID-19 cases before the Chinese New Year, but we have achieved this dubious feat a week earlier.

Yesterday’s daily increase of 3,391 new COVID-19 cases and 19 deaths was bitter-sweet news, as it indicated some light at the end of the tunnel with the country moving away from 4,000-5,000 daily increase of new COVID-19 infections but coupled with the shocking news of daily increase of COVID-19 fatalities.

The call yesterday by the Heath Director-General Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah to private, non-Ministry of Health laboratories run by the military, universities and private entities to be more efficient in processing COVID-19 test samples is grave cause for concern.

He said that public hospital laboratories were running RT-PCR tests for the disease at almost 100% capacity while other laboratories were testing way below what they were capable of.

He said: “We realise now that at university laboratories, they have only done 27%. So there is actually (room) for them to increase (the processing) of more tests in the universities.

“In private laboratories, it is only at 31%. And also the army hospital (laboratories) it is at 24%.”

He proposed these under-testing laboratories to hire more staff, redesign internal processes and improve data integration so they can process COVID-19 samples quicker.

If these facilities stepped up, Noor Hisham said Malaysia would be able to test closer to 76,805 tests per day – which is the daily maximum testing capacity.

The 68 public and private COVID-19 laboratories nationwide conducted a total of 33,078 tests yesterday – a mere 43 percent of the daily maximum capacity.

What the Health Director-General said is right, except that these weaknesses should have been revealed and rectified many months earlier, as there been calls for an integrated national strategy in the war against the COVID-19 pandemic right from the beginning.

In fact, the country should be taking steps to improve our maximum testing capacity of 76,805 tests a day.

The question is what is being done to ensure that there is now an “all-of-government” and “whole-of-society” strategy and approach in the war against the COVID-19 pandemic to restore public confidence, trust and support for the war against the COVID-19 pandemic.

With such serious weaknesses in the testing capacity for COVID-19 so late in the of the pandemic, can we ensure that we do not repeat the chaos of national vaccination roll-outs experienced by other countries?

At Malaysia’s present trajectory of increase of COVID-19 cases, the country may even overtake Philippines in the next few months in cumulative total of COVID-19 cases.

Will that still happen even though we are the sixth most populous nation in ASEAN, after Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar?

For the record, on Nov 18, 2020, Indonesia was ranked No. 21 and now ranked No. 19, while the Philippines, the second ASEAN country with the most cumulative total of COVID-19 cases, was ranked No. 26 on Nov 18, 2020 and is now ranked No. 32.

Public trust and confidence in the government’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic has plummeted to the lowest level.

Will the Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, return from Indonesia fully appraised of this problem and overhaul the strategy completely to restore public confidence, trust and support? – Feb 6, 2021


Lim Kit Siang is the MP for Iskandar Puteri

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

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