New Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin must do better than this predecessor and the previous PN government, that will be remembered for sheer incompetence in overseeing the comprehensive failure of the battle against COVID-19 pandemic with a record number of infections and deaths totalling 1,746,254 cases and 16,664 deaths. We believe that Khairy would not repeat the ridiculous gaffes of his predecessor that made Malaysia the butt of international jokes, from drinking warm water to prevent COVID-19 to confusing Spanish flu with Spanish fly.
However, with 1 out of 18 Malaysians being infected with COVID-19, Khairy must move quickly and decisively. Not only must vaccination be accelerated there must also be mass test screening of Find, Test, Trace, Isolate and Support plus vaccination (FTTIS+V) as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as well as ensure our hospitals and health services are fully manned and funded with sufficient ICU beds, medicines, and facilities to care for sick patients.
The daily vaccination dosage on 31 August has dropped below its target of 500,000 doses with 336,632 doses on 29 August, 302,804 doses on 30 August and 361,381 doses on 31 August. The test positivity rate achieved a record high of 17.76% on 30 August which is more than 3 times WHO’s recommended 5%. This indicates widespread under-testing with only 108,503 tests on 30 August, and that the actual number of Covid-19 cases is likely significantly higher than the reported figures. As an effective preventive measure, the mass screening of tests should cover at least 1% of our population, or 320,000 tests daily.
Public anger is also directed at the poor support given to COVID-19 positive patients in terms of health care and advice. In the United Kingdom, the relevant authorities not only took the initiative to call up COVID-19 patients daily but also offered to buy groceries. In contrast, here we receive despairing complaints from COVID-19 patients that there is no response for their desperate cries for help whether in calling for ambulances, ICU beds, purchase of necessities and food, medical treatment or admission to quarantine centres.
The challenge is not to show results within 100 days as set by Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob because 100 days is too long a period in the context of a rapidly evolving pandemic that can cause more lives to be unnecessarily lost. There must be a sense of utmost urgency to complete the revamp in the shortest possible time, bearing in mind the lessons learnt from the botched on-line registration of AstraZeneca vaccine, despite spending RM70 million on the MySejahtera apps.
Lim Guan Eng
DAP Secretary – General