IN the months following the Sabah state election in September 2020, an unprecedented Emergency Ordinance was issued to prevent further volatility that could bring irreversible consequences to Malaysia’s healthcare system. As a result, Sarawak’s state election has been postponed until after the Ordinance expires on Aug 1, 2021. It is critical and crucial that adequate public health measures are in place and clear health indicators are met before any election is called, whether at the state or federal level. Otherwise, the efforts of the past six months will be moot.
The Health and Sciences Covid-19 Advisory Group of Experts’ (EAG) ground scan reveals that there are challenges in policy implementation and systemic gaps that prevent a true whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach to handling the pandemic. Moreover, the National Recovery Plan announced on June 15 lacks specificity and detail that will allow us to exit the pandemic effectively and safely. Doing so requires the following:
> Trustworthy and competent leadership and governance.
> Effective, efficient and inclusive vaccine rollout.
> Automation and digital find, test, trace, isolate, support (FTTIS).
> Science-based decision-making and forward direction.
Precision decisions to introduce, adapt or lift public health and social measures should be based primarily on a situational assessment of the intensity of transmission and the capacity of the healthcare system to respond. Such decisions must also be considered in terms of the effects the measures may have on the general welfare of society and individuals.
Democratic processes must indeed continue; however, the upsurge in cases after the Sabah state election showed that all public health measures must remain robust and durable even if community transmission is low. Therefore, the EAG continues to hold out for no election until Malaysia reaches and maintains low transmission rates boosted by high vaccination rates and an overall safe economic and social space for managing the pandemic.
The EAG has forwarded its technical public health recommendations to the Prime Minister and the Health Ministry, providing detailed proposals for strengthening the current pandemic response strategy in accordance with World Health Organisation guidelines. It is therefore our expectation that the government incorporates this expert opinion in its recovery plan to ensure a decisive, effective exit from the Covid-19 pandemic.
TAN SRI DATUK DR ABU BAKAR SULEIMAN
Chairman, Health and Sciences Covid-19 Advisory Group of Experts (EAG)
PROF DR ROSMAWATI MOHAMED
Academy of Medicine of Malaysia
DR MARY CARDOSA
Malaysian Medical Association
DATUK DR FADZILAH KAMALUDIN
Malaysian Public Health Physicians’ Association
DATUK DR KULJIT SINGH
Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia
DATUK DR CHRISTOPHER LEE
Malaysian Society of Infection Control and Infectious Diseases