Why has the Muhyiddin Government wasted 10 months in devising an “all-of-government” and “whole-of-society” strategy and approach in the war against Covid-19 pandemic and why such a strategy has still not been formulated?

Despite the four following developments, viz:

  • Announcement of the imposition of movement control order (MCO.2) on eight states and territories on 11th January;
  • Proclamation of Emergency on 12th January;
  • Malaysia overtaking China and Myanmar and now ranked No. 65 among countries in the world with most cumulative total of Covid-19 cases; and
  • Ranked No. 30th among countries in the world in daily increase of new Covid-19 infections.

I am compelled to ask two questions:

Firstly, are we heading for a cumulative total of some 200,000 Covid-19 cases by the end of the month; and

Secondly, why has the Muhyiddin Government wasted 10 months in devising an “all-of-government” and “whole-of-society” strategy and approach in the war against Covid-19 pandemic and why such a strategy has still not been formulated

Many developments are behind the second question.

Firstly, the statement yesterday by the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) President, Dr. Subramaniam Muniandy asking the government not to use emergency to arm-twist and bully the private healthcare sector.

Dr. Subramaniam said the MMA viewed with deep concern the statement made by the Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob concerning the Emergency Ordinance (EO).

He said that the private healthcare sector had been consistently offering their services in the battle against Covid-19 from the very start of the pandemic.

He said: “It must also be noted that most of the private hospitals are owned by government-linked companies (GLCs) where the government, as a shareholder, is a beneficiary of its profits and dividends.

“The EO should be used for a collaborative approach in finding and hastening solutions by cutting red tape and removing regulatory burdens for seamless implementation.

“The government should stop playing 'big brother' after not being able to contain the pandemic and should instead start listening to feedback from the ground and regard private healthcare as its key partner.

“The 7,000 Health Ministry-trained trained general practitioners were sidelined from the start of the pandemic and throughout most of 2020 in the fight against Covid-19.

“The MMA has been regularly advising the government on the important role of GPs in this pandemic.

“It is hoped the GPs will be roped in more effectively and be involved in policymaking in managing Covid-19 in primary care.

“Previously, many GPs were reluctant to see upper respiratory infections for fear of the closure of their clinics and vague quarantine criteria imposed by the ministry.

“The MMA’s numerous letters to the Health Ministry and meetings with government officials seem to have fallen on deaf ears.”

Dr. Subramaian ended with a very revealing paragraph: “The government should instead go back to the drawing board and, once and for all, for the sake of our beloved country and the rakyat, truly implement a 'whole of society' and 'whole of government' approach.“

The latest report in the Code.Blue website “’My Entire Family Got Covid-19, Nobody Called Us’”, the story of a PJ resident who had to pay RM2,000 for two private ambulances to take her Covid-infected elderly parents-in-law, who had underlying medical conditions, to Sungai Buloh hospital, is another reason for the question why the Muhyiddin government has not devised an “all-of-government” and “whole-of-society” strategy and approach to the war against the Covid-19 pandemic.

I have for the past ten months repeatedly called on the government for a “all-of-government” and “whole-of-society” strategy in the war against Covid-19 pandemic, but they have fallen on deaf ears.

It is only now that we hear of the Health Ministry engaging with the Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia (APHM) with the Deputy Health Minister Noor Azmi Ghazali chairing a meeting with APHM to prevent the public health system from reaching a breaking point.

Malaysians are entitled to ask why the Health Ministry and the Muhyiddin Government had wasted ten months from devising an “all-of-government” and “whole-of-society” strategy and approach in the war against Covid-19 pandemic.

The Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had announced after the proclamation of emergency that the government would set up an independent committee supposedly to be made up of health experts and bipartisan lawmakers to advise the King whether the emergency should be ended before August 1 or should be extended.

Will this so-called “independent” committee be truly independent or will it be a mere rubber-stamp.

The answer to this question will decide whether such a committee will serve any useful purpose.

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri