We have reached a new milestone in the number of COVID-19 infections. For a country with a population of about 32 million-plus an estimated 4 million documented and undocumented foreign workers, this figure of 20,596 infections is surely a figure not many Malaysians can digest. The death toll has also breached the 10,000 mark on Thursday, August 5th. Who is to be blamed for this calamity?
The Covid infections at a time last year were well under control and most Malaysians were of the opinion that we need not worry. This was at a time when Covid-19, was ravaging most parts of the world. Malaysian authorities handling Covid-19 issues received accolades from other Health authorities from all over the world. Our Director-General of Health Dr. Noor Hisham was voted as one of the best in managing Covid-19 infections. Malaysians too were proud and went on with their daily work. Although the first lockdown flattened the curve, the period of lockdown did cause a lot of damage to Malaysians. Malaysians were not prepared for such a scenario as such a scene had never happened before. The Japanese Encephalitis virus as well as the SARS virus which also claimed many lives did not cause as much damage and problems as the Covid-19 virus. Quite a big number of businesses went bust. Many people lost their jobs and went into other less reputable businesses. The government’s PRIHATIN Package, amounting to RM250 billion provided government support to society, covering people of various backgrounds from students, and families to business owners. However, the help did not reach every needy Malaysian.
At a time when Covid-19 was under control, the government moved into lackadaisical mode. The number of infections was controlled. Mainstream activities were allowed. The government allowed such activities to allow the economy to pick up. Business people were also working hard to recoup their losses. All went fine until the government decided to hold the Sabah State Elections. This was the turning point to what it is today. The elections were held on September 26, 2020. There was a mass movement of people from West Malaysia to Sabah and back. Sabahans working in West Malaysia and Sarawak returned to their constituencies to vote. Perikatan Nasional coalition and its allies won the election but unfortunately, the government’s joy was short-lived. According to reliable sources, the mass gathering during the campaign period of the Sabah Elections caused 70% of cases in Sabah after the election and indirectly caused 64.4% of cases elsewhere in Malaysia. After weeks of single and double infections, the infections moved up to three digits and followed with four digits. Although there was a surge, the government made another mistake, a national lockdown was not considered. Even the Prime Minister agreed that the surge was due to the Sabah Elections but stressed that the government could arrest the new wave of infections using the knowledge gained since the start of the pandemic. He even mentioned that the authorities know the behaviour of the virus and the government had enough manpower, facilities, and experience.
Sadly, Malaysia once praised by the WHO for being UNITED against Covid-19 started sliding into disaster. In early January 2021, the government once again announced a renewed lockdown across much of the country, banning interstate travel. Online learning for school children and work from home was also brought back. Additionally, the King assented to the government’s request for an emergency order to curb Covid-19 infections. The King was of the view that that the spread of the Covid 19 virus was critical and there is a need to bring it under control. Ultimately, all these efforts did not help to reduce infections but on the other hand, they continued to rise rapidly causing intense worries among Malaysians. Many lost their loved ones and friends.
Lately, the government has struggled to contain a recent outbreak that has been driven by a more dangerous variant of the virus. Although the government has started mass vaccination in February 2021 infections and deaths have been increasing to the extent that the healthcare system is crippled. Although extra ICU beds had been created, the facility has reached full capacity. Some patients are treated in normal wards as a result. Hospitals were also forced to use makeshift beds set up in waiting areas and car parks. It was reported that patients were also seen lying on the floor of admission rooms. Oxygen shortages in hospitals was reported and, to cope with the rise in deaths containers were used to store the dead in hospital morgues.
Our government leaders who once said that they had the knowledge to reduce infections are helpless. They even indicated that they even know the behaviour of the virus and had enough manpower, facilities, and experience to handle it. Unfortunately, all this has become empty talk. Malaysia’s healthcare system has already reached the breaking point. On the 5th of August, Malaysia had more than 20,000 cases which is an all-time high and a death toll of 10,000 people.
Why have we come to this stage? Who is to blame? Right now the infections remain uncontrollable and deaths unavoidable. Firstly, many quarters blamed the government for not being efficient and the public for not heeding strict lockdown rules. However, the main issues which was a catalyst to the sharp increase in cases were the Sabah State Election and a disregard for the rules by the leaders in power. The leaders practiced double standards when it came to compulsory quarantine. There were even leaders who did not follow quarantine rules at all and appeared in public after an overseas visit. Additionally, there were even cases of leaders crossing states to test drive cars and having parties in durian orchards. Unfortunately, the Rakyat were punished with heavy fines for not following the SOPs. This led to a lot of frustrations among Malaysians who were already stressed with not being able to work, do business, or put food on the table. Many NGOs realised that a majority of Malaysians were suffering thus to alleviate their problems, started to provide free food and basic cooking items. A new hashtag was born! KITA JAGA KITA.
Malaysia started its vaccination drive in February 2021 but many are of the opinion that the rollout was very slow. The vaccination process was also badly coordinated. Many until today cannot understand why the vaccination process was controlled by the government. Private authorities should have also been given vaccination rights for a fee. Many people who could afford it wouldn’t have waited. Factory clusters also caused cases to rise but if vaccination options were open owners would have conveniently vaccinated their workers.
All things considered, it’s not fair to blame the rakyat. Failures of the people reflect on the failures of the government and leaders of the day.
Palaniappan Karuppan is a content writer under Headliner by Newswav, a programme where content creators get to tell their unique stories through articles and at the same time monetize their content within the Newswav app.
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