Health experts, community leaders say battle against Covid-19 must not be derailed

Up to 753 residents in Pulau Redang receiving their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at SK Pulau Redang, Terengganu, as part of the island’s Covid-19 immunisation programme.— Bernama

PETALING JAYA: No matter what happens on the political front, the country cannot afford to waver from its No. 1 fight – the battle against Covid-19 – health experts, community leaders and other stakeholders have stressed.

They pointed out that the pandemic was still raging, with a high number of cases and deaths, and much more still needed to be done to overcome this crisis.

Malaysian Public Health Physicians Association president Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar said that for the sake of the rakyat and medical workers, the priority must remain on the pandemic.

“Everybody, including government agencies, has to put aside politics and focus on the people. Everyone is stressed out and tired while frontliners are overworked,” he said yesterday.

Dr Zainal said while there was hope thanks to the uptick in the vaccination rate, with the Delta variant causing a surge and the possible need of a third vaccination dose, the horizon was still quite far away.

To ensure the fight against Covid-19 remains strong, he said he hoped there would be greater community involvement and mobilisation.

More than a million Covid-19 cases and more than 8,000 deaths have been reported in the country so far, while there is much political uncertainty.

Prof Dr Moy Foong Ming of Universiti Malaya’s Department of Social and Preventive Medicine said there was no doubt that the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic had to continue.

She said although the percentage of those considered serious was low, this was still a big number for those treating these patients.

“People are dying while the healthcare system is overstretched and near collapse,” she added.

The number of cases in the country has breached the one million mark, with an average of 15,000 cases reported daily in the past few weeks.

Dr Moy said even clinical master’s students were now being recalled to serve for another six months in hospitals or assessment centres, deferring their studies in the process.“I really empathise with the frontliners who are overworked and burnt out as the number of cases is not going down,” she added.

She said the country needed to carry on with the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme, pointing out that only certain states had high vaccination rates.

She noted that states such as Sabah and Kelantan were still recording low vaccination registration rates, and more needed to be done to make sure everyone in these states got inoculated.

Dr Moy said if the number of cases could be lowered to below 10,000 and later on to fewer than 5,000, the authorities would not need to worry about the numbers, and more emphasis could be put on serious cases.

She also pointed out that those who were seriously ill needed to stay in the hospital for a few weeks, causing resources to be further stretched.

Alliance for Safe Community chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said the political upheaval was unfortunate at a time when the nation was fighting a deadly disease.

“I think what the people expect to see is for all political parties to work on a bipartisan approach.

“The issue now is the safety of the people. So many lives have been lost. We can’t afford to see more lives lost as there are almost 200 deaths per day and that is far too serious to be ignored.

“I think it is very important to pool all our resources to fully concentrate on the fight against Covid-19 and not allow ourselves to be distracted by political issues,” he added.

On Thursday, Istana Negara released a strongly worded statement saying that Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah had expressed great disappointment with the government’s decision to revoke six emergency ordinances without His Majesty’s consent.

The King also expressed dismay that the revocation of the ordinances was not presented in Parliament by the government and said Parliament had been misled.

The Royal rebuke came following a bombshell announcement by the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Law and Parliament) Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan in Parliament that the government had revoked all six Emergency Ordinances on July 21.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the government had already informed the King of its decision to revoke the ordinances and in other words, whether His Majesty agreed or otherwise, the King is constitutionally required to accept it.

Meanwhile, Lee said all political parties had to put aside their differences and pool their resources towards fighting Covid-19.

He also said community empowerment was important in fighting this virus, where every member of the public should be regarded as a frontliner.

“Community empowerment is essential as we cannot just depend on the Health Ministry and the government alone. People must care for themselves, look out for one another, encourage those who are not yet registered on MySejahtera so they can receive the vaccine.

“The government too must listen to the people,” he said.

Moderation advocate Anas Zubedy said political stability in this country is greatly needed, and suggested setting up a National Operations Council (Mageran)-like body that is above politics to focus on key issues.

“To help people trust this Mageran-like council, we need to have not more than 10 people in it that are represented by ‘negarawan’ (statesmen).

“Those in the Mageran-like council cannot run in the next general election and must retire from politics. Their main focus is just to get us out of these current challenges,” he added.

Anas said the government needs to be focused on issues that matter, which are Covid-19, the economy as well as the war on corruption.

“We need to focus on corruption right now too because if we don’t deal with corruption, it will derail the economy and our fight against Covid-19,” he argued.

Anas said as one of the problems plaguing the government right now is the question of its legitimacy. Perikatan Nasional needs to show proof that it does have the majority even if it is a small one.

This, he said, will “stop the nonsense” that is being seen in Parliament now.

“Alternatively, Pakatan Harapan can gather all its MPs to show that it has the majority outside Parliament, instead of impatiently trying to vote inside Parliament.

“Just 110 or more can stand outside Parliament to show they have made their own choice.

“Either coalition must show proof it has the majority,” he added.

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