A plea to PM Muhyiddin Yassin on tackling Covid-19

Dear PM,Three recent events in the last 48 hours indicate that Malaysia should now accelerate its response to the Covid-19 infection without delay.

First is the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring the Covid-19 outbreak as a pandemic.

Second is that Malaysia detected its first sporadic case — with no history of travel to affected area or contact with an infected person — an indication that the disease has spread into the community. (The director-general of health later clarified that what was thought to be a sporadic case was actually linked to a religious event.)

The third is that cases are now detected in multiple states in Malaysia.

We may be on the verge of the infection getting worse and becoming uncontrollable, putting the lives of many Malaysians at risk.

Sir, they are all your people, your country’s citizens, women, children, men, old and young alike.

In any crisis of such magnitude, no person, doctor, hospital, state, ministry or even government alone can tackle it effectively.

Recent weeks have taught us that to tackle the infection spread, we need a very rapid and clear response and message.

It also involves many departments, ministries, sectors and the public.

Above all, it involves the highest political office to make important timely live-saving decisions that may not always be popular or acceptable.

The problem of shortage of sanitisers and masks involves the domestic trade and industry ministry, private sector manufacturers, distributors, hospitals, clinics and appropriate public messages.

The recent religious gathering of 10,000 people at a mosque in Kuala Lumpur, attended by a patient infected with Covid-19, now presents a potential worsening of the spread of the virus.

Tackling such problems may need religious authorities with guidelines, in collaboration with experts on infectious diseases.

The travel and tourism industry is badly affected and may need an economic stimulus and protection plan, working alongside the finance ministry, banks, industry stakeholders and many more.

Many problems cut across many sectors as some may fear to be tested in case they are placed under quarantine and lose their income. Even some clinics or healthcare facilities have similar concerns.

Until and unless these concerns are addressed in a timely and practical manner, many may not come forward and thus our containment efforts may be futile.

The health ministry has been doing a valiant and fantastic job, led by its director-general and top management.

But the health ministry, working in silo, cannot continue to tackle this problem alone. Many doctors and nurses are tired and we need a new batch to replace them. The emotional and physical drain on many is now evident.

There are also many talents and top brains, not only in the health ministry and the government, but also in the private sector as well, cutting across all sectors.

It is important to harness the best of Malaysian experts, regardless of where they are from or which side of the political divide they are sitting in.

This is the time for co-operation, not division, solidarity not fighting, and sincerity in saving every Malaysian.

We need for once to come together and form a national task force with one direction and one voice, headed by yourself or your second in command.

Let’s do it together before it’s too late and to every Malaysian, let’s do our part, too. Together we shall overcome.

Dr John Teo is an FMT reader

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.