Re-strategise so that Malaysia can be one of the better-performing countries in the war against Covid-19 pandemic

Just a year ago, on March 11 last year, when there were 118,000 Covid-19 cases globally in 114 countries, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Covid-19 as a pandemic.

A year later, global total of Covid-19 cases have increased over 1,000 times to breach the 120 million mark and has affected 219 countries and territories, taking a heavy toll on societies and economies.

The United States remain the world’s top country with over 30 million Covid-19 cases and over 546,000 fatalities, while Brazil has just overtaken India as the world’s second country with the most cumulative total of Covid-19 cases – close to 11.5 million Covid-19 cases and over 277,000 fatalities. India, the world’s third country with over 10 million Covid-19 cases, has over 11.3 million cases and 158,642 fatalities.

The Covid-19 pandemic has proved wrong the Global Health Security (GHS) Index, released in 2019 to identify the countries which would perform best at addressing pandemic diseases.

The experts thought that the countries best positioned to deal with pandemic diseases like Covid-19 were countries like the United States and United Kingdom but they were proved wrong.

The United States and the United Kingdom were the two countries that scored the highest on the GHS Index but they were among the top worst performers in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Malaysia was ranked high as No. 18 country in the Global Health Security Index, but in the Bloomberg Covid Resilience Ranking February 2021, Malaysia ranked lower than Singapore (GHS Index No. 24), China (51), Japan (21), Israel (54), India (57), Saudi Arabia (47) and Vietnam (50).

In fact, we have one of the longest waves of the Covid-19 epidemic in the world. The third wave of the Covid-19 epidemic, which started in September last year, has dragged on for seven months, and although the daily increase have come down to below 2,000 cases in the last eight days - ranging from 1,280 on 9th March to 1,683 on March 7 - we have not fully brought the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic under control as we have not even returned to December figures when we had triple digit figures.

We must try to bring down the daily increase of new Covid-19 cases to triple digit figures this month then to double-digit figures.

There is an urgent need for Malaysia to re-strategise our 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.

The government has still to adopt an “all-of-government” and “whole-of society” strategy and approach in the war against Covid -19 pandemic to save both lives and livelihoods, to ensure that our educational, societal and economic infrastructure are maintained at the optimal level.

For a start, the government must give a proper response to 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 354 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered across 121 countries, including 105 million doses in the United States and 52 million doses in China, at the rate of roughly 9.14 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 the completion of the Covid-19 national vaccination rollout ahead of schedule so that normality and economic restoration can be activated as early as possible – say in the third or fourth quarter of the year.

All these call for agile leadership, imaginative action, fast and effective communication to the people, public trust and confidence and not ham-fisted blunders like emergency laws to impose RM10,000 fines on the ordinary citizenry who breach the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) or on fake news about Covid-19 and the emergency proclamation.

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri