Integration of public and private hospitals next week most welcome as a first step towards an “all-of-government” and “whole-of-society” strategy and approach in the war against the Covid-19 pandemic

I welcome the announcement of the Health Director-General Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah that the Health Ministry aims to begin integrating public and private hospitals to treat serious cases of Covid-19 by next week, as it is the first step towards an “all-of-government” and “whole-of-society” strategy and approach in the war against the Covid-19 pandemic which we should have adopted some ten months ago.

Now that we have started on this process to ensure that we can emerge on top in the war against the Covid-19 epidemic, Malaysia must widen the scope and magnitude of this process to include key players in the private sector – the political parties, the NGOs and the civil society, the SMEs, the corporate sector and even the investors – as well as the immediate convening of a Special Parliament on the Covid-19 pandemic to provide a platform for such a strategy and approach.

There is grave concern about Malaysia under-testing for Covid-19 since November, which must be immediately addressed.

The Code-Blue website reports that for 10 weeks since November 6, the positive rate for Covid-19 tests in Malaysia has been above five per cent, exceeding the World Health Organization’s (WHO) maximum target.

Malaysia’s Covid-19 test positive rate (the share of tests that are positive) has maintained above five per cent since November 6, based on a rolling seven-day average, peaking on January 1 this year with a positive rate of 9.1 per cent. Malaysia’s positive rate subsequently declined to six per cent on January 18.

With WHO’s recommended positive rate of less than five per cent, this means that Malaysia has not been testing enough to capture mild or asymptomatic Covid-19 cases, detecting only people with symptoms or severe conditions.

Since November, Malaysia’s reported average daily cases have been rising continuously from an average of 1,089 cases between November 6 and November 19, to an average of 3,148 cases between January 8 and January 21, 2021.

While these official figures seem high, under-testing means that the actual number of Covid-19 cases in Malaysia could be much higher.

The continued high daily increase of Covid-19 cases (yesterday was 3,178 cases which ranked Malaysia as No. 59 among countries in the world with the most cumulative total of Covid-19 cases with 172,549 cases and Malaysia is likely to be ranked No. 58 today overtaking Lithuania) and the extension of the second movement control order (MCO2.0) until Feb.4 must convince the Cabinet that the Covid-19 pandemic must be its first priority concern if Malaysia is not to have a Covid catastrophe.

It is also essential that to maintain public trust and confidence in an “all-of-government” and “whole-of-society” strategy and approach, the Covid-19 pandemic should not be exploited to enable the commission of any misuse of power, fraud, corruption or any discriminatory action against any race, religion or section of Malaysia’s diverse population.

An example is the Kedah State Government’s decision to cancel Thaipusam as a holiday next week.

Is this the decision of the Kedah Mentri Besar, Muhammad Sanusi Mohd Nor himself or is it the decision of the Kedah State Executive Council?

If it is the decision of the Kedah Mentri Besar himself, the Kedah Exco should countermand the decision.

If it is the decision of the Kedah State Exco, the other parties in the Kedah state coalition government, namely Bersatu and UMNO, must explain why they have taken such an insensitive and discriminatory decision and whether the respective party headquarters would instruct their Exco Members, who comprise the majority of the Kedah Exco members, to reverse the decision.

Similarly, the Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin must demonstrate that he does not speak one language for the international audience, but takes a different action in domestic policies.

His call for Asean to take a tougher stance against hate speech, including those based on gender and sexual orientation, must start within his own administration.

For a start, he must declare that the Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Ahmad Marzuk Shaary's statement that the government was mulling amendments to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act 1965 or Act 355 does not represent his government’s policy and is against the government’s priorities during the Covid-19 pandemic.

He should also set a good example of good governance by cancelling the wastage of RM35.43 million to build three community halls in his Pagoh parliamentary constituency, when existing community halls in Pagoh are not being fully utilised, and devote the money to ease the people’s hardships during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri