1) On this day last year, Malaysia recorded its first Covid-19 cases. A group of tourists from China travelled to Malaysia via Singapore and had previously been in contact with an infected person in Singapore. Upon arriving they were immediately placed under quarantine in Malaysia on Jan 24, 2020. On Jan 25, three tested positive.
2) After a year, where do we stand now?
3) An increasing trend of COVID cases, business fear the effects of MCO, national ’emergency’ declared, people losing their job and left without savings, university and school students have yet to have a clear plan on the direction of their studies and future.
4) What’s next for Malaysia? What are the lessons learnt from the first Movement Control Order that we should be looking at?
5) The Health DG, Tan Sri Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah has openly stated that our healthcare system can no longer cope and is at its breaking point.
6) Five grave issues confront us today. First, we do not have enough healthcare personnel to manage thousands of cases a day.
7) Secondly, we have limited facilities and equipment like ICUs and ventilators to manage patients with Covid-19 complications.
8) Then there is lack of testing, limited nationwide quarantine centers, and unclear protocols for positive but asymptomatic patients.
9) We are not testing enough foreign workers, and have not reached undocumented foreign workers due to their fear of repercussions.
10) Let us not forget the absence of data transparency, where states are left in the dark by the federal government and respective state governments.
11) We have not collaborated with private healthcare providers to play a role in managing the pandemic.
12) Many countries use lockdowns as a last resort circuit breaker. A lockdown period is used to control movement to increase testing, contact tracing and isolate patients at large scale. During the first MCO, we failed to utilize the period to our benefit.
13) The second MCO needs to be focused incorporating a fresh outlook with the above measures to avoid another failure!
14) There are several essential steps to be taken for us to move forward in the COVID battle. First, to decentralize Covid-19 management: State-level Covid-19 task force needs to be established.
15) The main task by the state machinery will be Testing, Tracing and Isolating, at large scale. Secondly, to look out for community transmission to avoid clusters.
16) Deploy human resources from other government agencies. Reassign staff from ministries with less critical functions (tourism, youth and sports) to KKM. These staff can assist in data management, logistics, contact tracing etc. so that KKM can focus on the clinical task.
17) There has to be transient and transparent data sharing among all states regardless of political affiliations of the state. This also will help us understand the dynamics of COVID-19 in Malaysia, e.g. prominent symptoms and transmission.
18) The management of asymptomatic patients needs to be precise, a clear SOP of home quarantine and surveillance needs to be in place to avoid overcrowding our health facilities.
19) Large scale targeted rapid testing at the community level to detect community transmission in red zones. This move will enable early detection of positive cases, and the subsequent isolation to prevent further transmissions.
20) In engaging private healthcare providers, testing kits need to be made widely available; the cheaper form of testing, the RTK Antigen, needs to be promoted and given to all healthcare providers to encourage more testing by the public.
21) Address the public on our vaccination plan. Prepare a full implementation plan to be made widely available. Communicate in all languages.
22) And lastly, to encourage indiscriminate testing of foreign workers, including undocumented foreign workers. Singapore did this with tremendous results and managed to capture positive cases avoiding community spread.
23) The number of cases is expected to increase over the next two weeks to 8000 cases a day in a few weeks, further impacting Malaysians’ economic and social livelihood.
24) The government must take these steps and a holistic plan. Leadership by the Perikatan Nasional government involving stakeholders including all Members of Parliament, and the private and public sector is needed to prevent the deterioration and collapse of Malaysian society.