Malaysia must re-strategise to stop being one of the worst performing countries in ASEAN and Asia in the war against Covid-19 pandemic

In the latest monthly Bloomberg Covid Resilience Ranking at the end of February 2021, Malaysia ranked lower than Singapore (3), China (6), Taiwan (7), South Korea (8), Japan (9), Thailand (10), Hong Kong (13), Israel (14), UAE (15), India (16), Saudi Arabia (17), Vietnam (18) as Malaysia is ranked No. 23 in the index.

Malaysia fell seven places from the January ranking, when we were ranked No. 16, but we still then lost to Singapore, Taiwan, China, Japan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, UAE, South Korea, Thailand and Israel and was only ahead of India and Saudi Arabia.

As the Bloomberg Covid Resilience Ranking (February 2021) prefaced:

“Nearly a year since Covid-19 was declared a pandemic, the U.S. and parts of Europe are emerging from the darkest chapters yet of their outbreaks and climbing up Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking, a measure of the best places to be in the coronavirus era.

“While headlines have been dominated by the rush to vaccinate, these countries’ gains have largely stemmed from containment measures like mask-wearing and staying home. The U.S., led by the new administration of President Joe Biden, is also poised for a faster-than-expected economic rebound. Its rank leapt eight spots in February to 27th.

“Globally, the pandemic has lost momentum with total infections growing at the slowest pace since October. But major western economies are gaining ground faster than developing nations, fueling a rich-poor disparity in the Ranking that’s likely to persist in 2021 given the domination of vaccine supply by wealthy governments.

“Each month, Bloomberg crunches the numbers to capture a snapshot of where the pandemic is being handled the most effectively with the least social and economic disruption.”

There is an urgent need for Malaysia to re-strategise its Covid-19 approach so that Malaysia can be one of the better performing countries in the war against the Covid-19 pandemic.

In November last year, we were No. 85 among countries with the most cumulative total of Covid-19 cases, but we have jumped 40 positions and we are now ranked No 45, and China receded to No. 86th rank among countries in the world.

But with the 1,638 new Covid-19 cases yesterday, we are still ahead of the other top 44 countries in terms of daily new increase of Covid-19 cases.

Can we maintain the daily increase of Covid-19 cases to below 2,000, and move to a new phase of triple-digit daily increases in March?

The US-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) had predicted a continuous rise of Covid-19 cases in Malaysia, hitting over 20,000 daily infections from March 3.

According to IHME’s projections, Malaysia will register 20,035 new Covid-19 infections on March 3, increasing to a peak of 20,361 cases on March 13.

We have proved the IHME projections wrong.

The highest daily infection we have reached was 5,728 Covid-19 cases on 30th January, but we have to re-assess and re-strategise the Covid-19 approach to ensure that we are not one of the worst performing countries in the war against the Covid-19 epidemic.

Already, the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, which started in early September, must be one of the longest Covid-19 waves in the world.

For a start, can the National Security Council state the outcome of the Open Letter to the Prime Minister by 46 medical and health experts on January 7, 2021 for an “all-of-government” and “whole-of-society” strategy in the war against Covid-19 pandemic which, among their ten suggestions, proposed a Covid-19 Task Force comprising a cross-sectoral and empowered team of subject matter experts to be immediately formed to steer the nation out of the pandemic by regularly presenting its recommendations and audit of the health economic impact of key decisions to the cabinet?

Worldwide, more than 304 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered across 114 countries, including 90 million doses in the United States and 52 million doses in China, at the rate of roughly 7.93 million doses a day.

Although vaccines are not a panacea to the “Covid-19 pandemic, we must make the Covid-19 national vaccination rollout a success as we are in a battle against time with the emergence of many Covid-19 variants.

We must also accelerate to complete the Covid-19 national vaccination rollout ahead of schedule so that normality and economic restoration can be activated as early as possible – in the third or fourth quarter of the year.

All these also call for fast and effective communication from the authorities.

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri