Covid-19: Malaysia’s response can be a lesson to US, says American assoc prof

  • Nation
  • Monday, 23 Mar 2020

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia's nationwide response can be a model for other countries to help flatten the curve of the Covid-19 pandemic, says an American academic, Jason Hassenstab.

Hassenstab, an associate professor of neurology at Washington University, Missouri, acknowledged that his was a poorly-timed trip to Malaysia, but praised the nation’s response to the virus and suggested that the United States could emulate these measures.

“I noticed some stark contrasts between Malaysia and the US. In Malaysia, we went to four cities – Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, Lahad Datu and Sandakan.

“The enforcement was evident everywhere, even in the remote rainforest where we were staying.

“Mobile carriers send a message about social distancing every day. The carrier ID at the top of my phone that normally says Sprint said 'Stay Home' instead,” he said in a series of posts on Twitter.

Hassenstab gave a few other examples, noting the scenes at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) with security guards enforcing social distancing.

“Information banners with written and visual guidance were everywhere, printed by (the Health Ministry).

“The seats in the airport were taped off so that there would be an empty seat between each open one,” he said.

All airport employees, said Hassenstab, were wearing face masks while hand sanitisers were at “virtually every counter”.

“The Malaysian government has a totally consistent message – Stay Home, Keep Your Distance, Clean Your Hands – and the entire country is doing it,” he said.

He compared KLIA with other busy airports including at Atlanta where he said only 5% of customs and border control personnel had masks and gloves.

“No hand sanitisers other than some bathrooms. Shops and stores were open, business as usual. People were jamming together, no distance enforcement,” he said.

Hassenstab added that he and his family had flown via Tokyo, Japan, and a passenger three seats away was having high fever, vomiting and experiencing body aches.

“The paramedics came with the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) personnel at the gate and attended to her. But the rest of the passengers went through Customs like nothing had happened.

“Margaret, my boys and I had our temperatures checked because we reported coming from Malaysia and Singapore, but that was it,” he said.

Hassenstab said he knew five people who had come down with Covid-19, and the matter was not a joke.

“People will die on a massive scale unless extreme measures are taken. It is the best argument for a strong public health system and for a strong federal response.

“We need a clear and consistent message to truly #FlattenTheCurve, and it speaks volumes about our leadership that we need to model our nationwide response after other countries like Malaysia,” he said.

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