Government missed opportunity in battling Covid-19 pandemic, says Dr Kelvin

Dr Kelvin Yii

By John Isaac

THE government missed the “window of opportunity” to be more proactive in addressing systemic issues and shoring up the need for a “whole society” approach in combating the Covid-19 pandemic – especially when all it takes is a super-spreader event to turn the tides, which we experienced after the Sabah state elections.

Reflecting as we approach the 1st year since the detection of Covid-19 in our country on Jan 25, 20220, there have definitely been some highs and lows, hits and misses when it comes to our approach towards Covid-19 as a whole.

“At the beginning, we were lauded on an international stage as one of the most successful countries in handling the Covid-19 virus. Our healthcare workers and front liners were exemplary in their commitment and sacrifices to curb the spread of the virus and also to care and treat our patients.

“However, sometimes success breeds complacency, and maybe because of that we weren’t fully prepared for what was to come,” said Bandar Kuching MP, Dr Kelvin Yii.

Since that date till today,94% of Malaysia’s 169,379 total Covid-19 infections were recorded, with 497 deaths or 80% of the total during the same period as well.

Malaysia is the 20th top country in the world in terms of fastest increase in cases.

“It took 38 days to double our cases from and our daily new confirmed cases per population is higher than Indonesia and The Philippines,” he said.

Malaysia has also exceeded The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME)’s projection (published back on Dec 11), officially reporting >4k daily Covid-19 cases on Jan 16, about two weeks earlier than IHME’s initial Feb 1 forecast.

And bear in mind, IHME’s projection includes people who are not tested, which means if we expand our testing, we may even see higher figures on the ground compared to the one predicted by IHME.

Because of that we hear of reports on how our healthcare system is being stretched, healthcare workers being overworked as government approaches were more reactive rather than proactive.

“They are caught up “fire-fighting” as they missed that “window of opportunity” to set a stronger foundation for a “whole society” approach before by activating different sectors including external expert panels and the private sector to complement the public sectors role in the fight against Covid-19,” stressed Dr Kelvin.

However, moving forward, often life’s greatest lessons are usually learned at the worst times and from the worst mistakes.

“That is why I proposed that the government set up a joint public-private sector expert inquiry to investigate our Covid-19 response in the past year. I believe such an inquiry can be held simultaneously while we’re battling Covid-19.

“The aim is just to find the mistakes or gaps in our public health response and fix them for our ongoing response that is likely to last until 2023 even with the arrival of the vaccine,” he said.

This includes ways to better improve data transparency, mobilisation of all stakeholders, and decentralisation of approaches especially to the State Governments. This will help to increase capacity of testing, speed of contact tracing and also isolation capabilities.

This inquiry must also look into gaps in protecting and taking care of the welfare of our healthcare workers and what will be the best approach moving forward.

“We cannot fail them and must do all the we can to make sure they are cared for as they care for us,” he said.

Dr Kelvin also proposed that the Ministry release the numbers of health care workers who died from Covid-19, if any.

Until now we are still vague if there are any and as such, we cannot as a nation properly honour their sacrifices during this period.

“The government should also look into ways to better integrate a public-private partnership to better address not only Covid-19 cases, but to make sure quality of care for non- Covid-19 cases are well taken care of.

“We know that patients who delay or miss their appointments, the management of non-Covid-19 illness such as non-communicable diseases, cancer, immunisation uptake, will definitely be compromised”.

Proper and smart triaging of cases will protect the capacity of our Covid-19 hospitals and allow private hospitals to play a bigger role in this private-public partnership in Covid-19 pandemic management.

All these reports will then be made transparent and used to direct the government’s approach as we move forward and improve our overall approach towards Covid-19.

“The best way we can honour all the sacrifices that have been made the past year, is to make sure we do better this year and the best way is to learn from our history, if not we are doomed to repeat it,” added Dr Kelvin.