After a year of worsening Covid-19 pandemic, a false sense of priority seems to pervade the top echelon of the Muhyiddin government

It is shocking that after a year of worsening Covid-19 pandemic, the re-imposition of movement control order and the declaration of an emergency, a false sense of priority seems to pervade the top echelon of the Muhyiddin government.

Otherwise, why the visit of the Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to Indonesia where one of the results was to “step up talks to work out the standard operating procedure (SOP) for the implementation of the Reciprocal Green Lane (RGL) scheme between the two countries”, as announced by Muhyiddin after he met Indonesian President Jojo Widodo at Istana Merdeka, Jakarta last Friday?

The top priority for Malaysia and Indonesia at present should be to bring the Covid-19 pandemic in their respective countries under control, as Indonesia is at present ranked No. 19 among countries in the world with the most cumulative total of Covid-19 cases and one of 21 countries which had over a million cases – 1,147,010 Covid-19 cases and 31,392 fatalities with a daily increase of 12,150 new Covid-19 infections yesterday while Malaysia is struggling to bring the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic under control after four-and-a-half months.

Indonesia reached the record-high daily increase of 14,518 new Covid-19 infections only on January 30 and had maintained a five-digit daily increase since then, culminating in 12,156 new cases yesterday.

It is difficult to fathom what was Muhyiddin thinking when he made the call for a “step-up” of talks to work out a RGL arrangement with Indonesia, when it is would be more realistic to talk about plans for RGL arrangement with other ASEAN nations which have brought the Covid-19 pandemic under control, such as Singapore (ranked No. 94, total of 59,675 cases which increased by 26 new infections yesterday), Thailand (ranked No. 115, total of 23,314 cases which increased by 490 new infections yesterday), Vietnam (ranked No. 172, total of 1,981 cases which increased by five new infections yesterday), Cambodia (ranked No. 192, total of 472 cases which increased by two cases yesterday), Brunei (ranked No. 198, total of 181 cases which had no case of increase yesterday) or Laos (ranked 207, total of 45 cases with no increase yesterday).

But to now, the independent Covid-19 special committee which would advise the Yang di Pertuan Agong on the emergency and which was announced by the Prime Minister on January 12 had not yet been formed although Pakatan Harapan had responded positively to the proposal by naming the nominees to the committee.

This almost four-week delay in setting up the special committee to advise the Yang di Pertuan on Covid-19 and the emergency should engage the priority attention of the Prime Minister instead of a step-up of the preparations for a RGL between Malaysia and Indonesia, when this would in turn depend on the ability of both countries to bring the Covid-19 pandemic in their respective countries under control.

What is clear is that there is a need for a complete overhaul of the strategy in the war against the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is better to be late than never in launching an “all-of-government” and “whole-of-society” strategy and approach in the war against the Covid-19 pandemic or Malaysia will not be struggling over the question raised by the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) that the Health Ministry should revert to its earlier policy of testing all close contacts instead of presently testing only symptomatic close contacts.

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri