Muhyiddin asked about Malaysia’s strengths and weaknesses in the invisible war against Covid-19 and whether the government will present its exit plan to Parliament for approval

I have submitted a question for the May 18 sitting of Parliament asking the Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhjiddin Yassin to state “what are the strengths and weaknesses of the nation in the invisible war against Covid-19 and whether the government will present its exit plan to Parliament for approval”.

This is one of the six questions – all concerning the Covid-19 outbreak – which I have submitted to Parliament.

The other questions are:

  1. To ask the Prime Minister to explain the criteria for medical frontliners to be eligible for the RM600 special allowance as mentioned in the Bantuan Prihatin Nasional and to state the numbers of frontliners who already received this special allowance.
  2. To ask the Human Resource Minister to state how long can the government sustain the Employment Retention Programme if the MCO had to be extended again and the rationale behind the RM600 amount as it is clearly insufficient to survive on with unpaid leave.
  3. To ask the Health Minister to state our current capacity for testing, contact tracing, and treatment for Covid-19 patients and the ministry’s plan to increase this capacity should we face a sudden surge of infections.
  4. To ask the Finance Minister to state why there have been changes in government policy regarding the loan moratorium as announced in Bantuan Prihatin Nasional that are now causing borrowers to face additional interest payment.
  5. To ask the Housing and Local Government Minister to state the government plan to help private renters who had lost their source of income due to MCO and Covid-19 from being evicted due to lapse in rent payment.

As it would take 12 to 24 months before an effective vaccine against Covid-19 is developed and available widely, Malaysians must craft a “new norm” to become part of their lives, whether in work or play, where “social distancing” becomes a main feature of this “new norm”.

The world is a stage where Malaysia can learn from the successes and the mistakes of other countries in the invisible war against Covid-19, as the disease has reached 219 countries and territories, 180 of which have reported fatalities.

When Malaysia imposed the movement control order (MCO) on March 18, 2020, total global cases had just passed the 200,000 mark with fatalities less than 9,000. Today, the global total of confirmed cases have passed the 3.5 million mark while fatalities is nearing a quarter of a million.

Global total of confirmed cases have increased more than 16 times from 218,910 cases on March 18 to the present 3,560,915 cases while the global death toll has increased by over 27 times from 8,925 to 248,067 deaths.

When Malaysia imposed the MCO on March 18, we were the top 18th country in the world in terms of number of cases, and top 33rd country in terms of Covid-19 deaths. We are now No. 50 in world ranking in terms of number of Covid-19 cases and No. 53 in terms of Covid-19 deaths.

There is on the one hand the horror stories in Europe and the United States where Covid-19 outbreak went on a rampage, as in Italy, from 35,713 cases on March 18 to the present 210,717 cases (increase by 5.9 times); Spain, from 14,769 cases to 247,122 cases (increase by 16.7 times); Germany, from 12,327 cases to 165,664 (increase by 13.4 times); France, from 9,634 cases to 168,693 cases (increase by 17.5 times); United Kingdom, from 3,269 cases to 186,599 (increase by 57 times); and United States from 9,296 to 1,186,073 (increase by 127.5 times).

The horror countries do not just come from the West. Brazil had on March 18 less cases than Malaysia, with 529 cases and four deaths but it had skyrocketed to become the world’s Top Ninth Country with the most number of Covid-19 cases, more than China, with 101,147 cases (increase of 191 times, more than the United States) and a shocking toll of 6,750 deaths.

On the other hand, we have the success stories of South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Vietnam in the invisible war against Covid-19.

When the MCO was imposed on March 18, there were three countries with four-digit death toll, namely China, Italy and Iran.

Today, there are 22 countries which have recorded four-digit death toll of over 1,000 Covid-19 deaths, viz:

  1. United States – 68,545
  2. Italy – 28,884
  3. United Kingdom – 28,446
  4. Spain – 25,264
  5. France – 24,895
  6. Belgium – 7,844
  7. Brazil – 7,025
  8. Germany – 6,866
  9. Iran – 6,203
  10. Netherlands – 5,056
  11. China – 4,633
  12. Canada – 3,682
  13. Turkey – 3,397
  14. Sweden – 2,679
  15. Mexico – 2,061
  16. Switzerland – 1,762
  17. Ecuador – 1,564
  18. India – 1,391
  19. Ireland – 1,303
  20. Peru – 1,286
  21. Russia – 1,280
  22. Portugal – 1,043

What is the most important lesson we can learn from the mistakes and successes of other nations in the invisible war against Covid-19, as this invisible war is going to be with us for the next two years?

Apart from the six criteria to be fulfilled before we have a phased and localised lifting of restrictions to contain the coronavirus and to revive the devastated economy, the most important lesson is to have an “all-of-government” and “whole-of-society” approach, which is missing in the government’s present strategy in the invisible war against Covid-19.

This has resulted in ridiculous notions like a one-day Parliament to emasculate and marginalise Parliament and the great confusion in the country today.

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri