Parliament should urgently set up a Select Committee on Health and Social Care, hold virtual hearings on “Management of Covid-19 Outbreak” and submit a report on the unprecedented Covid-19 national crisis within a month

The Parliament Secretary had acted most improperly in sending out a notice to all Members of Parliament three days ago that the normally month-long meeting of Parliament during its opening session beginning on May 18 will be a one-day affair because of the movement control order (MCO) to combat the spread of Covid-19, and that there will be "no oral question sessions, written questions, motions and special chambers” during the one-day sitting.

The Parliament Secretary is pre-empting the powers and functions of the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and the National Security Council and acting as if the MCO will still remain in its present form on May 18.

How does he know?

The MCO, which has been extended twice, is to end on April 28.

Whether the MCO will be extended after April 28 or whether it will be lifted in phases has still to be decided. If the MCO is to be lifted in phases, surely an important exception to any restriction of movement concerns Parliament, so that it could continue to meet – virtual or otherwise - to provide scrutiny of the management of the Covid-19 outbreak and to ensure that Malaysia adopts the best exit plan strategy and blueprint for Malaysia not only to contain any resurgence of Covid-19 in future waves of the coronavirus outbreak, but also to effect the revival of the Malaysian economy and the rebuilding of the nation.

The notice issued by the Parliament three days ago is therefore without effect.

The Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin should reconsider the issue of a one-day meeting of Parliament on May 18 which will make a complete farce of the Malaysian Parliament, especially if the Motion of Thanks for the Royal Address is pushed off to a July meeting of Parliament.

The Parliaments of France and Spain approved lockdowns and extension of lockdowns. Why is the Parliament in Malaysia emasculated and marginalised in the Covid-19 pandemic?

In fact, the Malaysian Parliament should urgently set up a Select Committee on Health and Social Care, hold virtual hearings on “Management of Covid-19 Outbreak” and submit its report on the unprecedented Covid-19 crisis within a month.

Health director-general Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah said yesterday that Malaysia is learning from China’s successes and mistakes from the visiting team of medical experts from China.

This is the right and proper approach, as we should not try to invent the wheel. Although there is no “one-plan-fits-all” strategy and blueprint for the Covid-19 pandemic, every nation must learn from the successes and mistakes of other nations to come out with the best exit plan and strategy suitable for its peculiar condition and circumstances.

We should learn from all countries in the world – whether China, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, the United States, United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Turkey, Iran or Saudi Arabia.

South Korea and the United States have their first case of Covid-19 on the same day on January 20, but today, some three months later, South Korea is regarded as having set the gold standard for “flattening the curve” while the United States is regarded as a disaster in the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

South Korea yesterday reported only eight new Covid-19 cases, totalling 10,661 cases with 234 deaths while United States has chalked up over three-quarter of a million Covid-19 cases with 762,496 cases and a total death toll exceeding 40,000.

In South Korea, 8,042 out of 10,661 cases or 75.4 per cent of the cases have recovered from Covid-19 as compared to 69,956 cases or 9.2 per cent of the cases in the United States.

We must learn the successes of South Korea and avoid the mistakes of United States. In fact we must maintain an attitude of learning from the successes and failures of all countries in the world, as the post-Covid era is totally unprecedented for humanity in all nations.

We must do what is right for Malaysia, for the Malaysian economy and for Malaysians.

For instance, we must learn from Japan, whose emergency medical system is now being pushed to the brink.

Hospitals in Japan are increasingly turning away sick people as the country struggles with surging coronavirus infections and its emergency medical system collapses.

In one recent case, an ambulance carrying a man with a fever and difficulty breathing was rejected by 80 hospitals and forced to search for hours for a hospital in downtown Tokyo that would treat him. Another feverish man finally reached a hospital after paramedics unsuccessfully contacted 40 clinics.

When Malaysia imposed the MCO on March 18, Japan had 1,668 cases and 40 deaths. Today, Japan has a total of 10,797 cases and 236 deaths - poor statistics but still a far cry from the catastrophic figures in European countries and the United States.

Alarmed by rising Covid-19 deaths, Japan is scrambling to expand testing with drive-through facilities and general practitioners helping to collect samples.

For weeks Japan has limited its testing for the coronavirus, despite calls from many health experts who see testing as vital to detecting and isolating cases and slowing the spread.

We must maintain a flexible, creative and nimble approach in the invisible war against Covid-19, to learn from the successes and mistakes by all nations to develop a common collective purpose in this battle – whether from the portals of power or the person on the street in the towns, slums, kampongs and estates.

But we are beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel, both locally and internationally.

Malaysia’s third consecutive day of double-digit increase of Covid-19 cases is further confirmation that the country had passed the peak in the second wave of the coronavirus outbreak.

We have achieved 59.3% of recovery of Covid-19 confirmed cases, putting Malaysia among the top 16 countries for Covid-19 recoveries - headed by China 93.1 per cent, Vietnam 75.7%, South Korea 75.4%, Austria 71.2%, Iceland 72.9%, Thailand 69.7%, Iran 69.4%, Switzerland 64.2%, New Zealand 63.7% and Germany 60.6%.

All over the world, leaders are making plans for the best exit strategy from the lockdowns which will have considerable social, economic and political consequences.

This decision must be made by the whole nation and not only a section of the population – why the role of Parliament is so essential and fundamental if Malaysia is to have a responsible lockdown exit strategy.

I reiterate my call to the Prime Minister to put national interests above all other considerations and ensure that Parliament plays a full role in formulating the best exit strategy and blueprint from the MOC.

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri