I FEEL compelled to give my input to the Covid-19 situation in this country.
It is getting out of hand and if the Government does not do things differently, we may experience untold damage with disastrous repercussions.
A record-high 26 deaths were reported on May 9, with the number of fatalities escalating to 1,683 and the total number of infections at 440,677 (as of the same date).
Many people have approached me to provide my views since I handled the SARS crisis in 2003.
Of course, SARS did not reach pandemic proportions and was controlled within a few months.
Covid-19 is still ravaging globally and many countries are in dire straits. There is much morbidity and mortality.
Our healthcare system is on the verge of collapse with limited ICU beds, oxygen and thoroughly exhausted healthcare personnel.
The government must do something different, remembering the adage: “You have to be cruel to be kind.”
I suggest the following:
> Have just one spokesperson. Too many people are talking. The various ministers are contradicting one another and the rakyat is understandably confused, not sure which authority to listen to. I strongly feel that the Health director-general should be the single spokesperson and be given the respect and authority to advise the Government accordingly, especially at National Security Council meetings chaired by the Prime Minister. The current Health director-general, with due respect to him, needs to do more and be open to views from other stakeholders.
> Make bold decisions. Just enforce MCO throughout the country and not soften the blow by announcing CMCO, EMCO and RMCO in different states and districts. (Update: Yesterday evening, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced that the whole country will be placed under MCO from May 12-June 7).
There should not be interstate travels and no visitors should be allowed for Raya. No exceptions. There are a lot of cases without symptoms, which can easily infect the elderly when people salam during Raya and from there, a cluster can form.
> The economic sector should be allowed to continue but with very strict SOPs. Penalise them if they are not compliant.
> The rakyat must adhere to the strict SOPs and not be lackadaisical, as what is observed now. They must know what needs to be done and why those measures are in place. They must learn and be fully aware of the dangers of transmission and the consequences and not depend entirely on the Government to monitor them.
> There should not be double standards as the virus does not differentiate between a politician, a VIP or the common man. Also, the rakyat is watching and if you bend the rules for someone, the rakyat will become disillusioned and may wonder why they need to comply while others do not.
> The vaccination drive must be accelerated and well coordinated.
The above means that we need strong leadership at the top to make those bold decisions. Otherwise, do not expect things to change. They will only get worse.
TAN SRI DR MOHD ISMAIL MERICAN
Former Health DG