KUALA LUMPUR, March 2 — The Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy urged the new Malaysian government to quickly appoint a health minister, as the global novel coronavirus outbreak worsens.
Galen Centre chief executive Azrul Mohd Khalib said the new Perikatan Nasional administration led by Muhyiddin Yassin must place the response and management of the Covid-19 outbreak as a matter of the highest priority to protect the health and safety of all Malaysians.
“The appointment of the health minister will fill a critical gap in the leadership of our public health system, particularly of the Covid-19 multi-ministerial taskforce,” Azrul said in a statement today.
“She or he will need to ensure that our critical frontline health care professionals and supporting services continue to be provided with adequate logistical, manpower and funding,” he added.
Doing this, he added, will ensure that Malaysia’s health services are able to maintain its efforts to contain the disease and treat those infected.
A total of 29 Covid-19 cases have been reported in Malaysia, of which 22 have recovered. Four cases were recorded yesterday, one of which is an employee of Khazanah Nasional Berhad, who was said to be in close contact with a former deputy minister and ex-minister.
Azrul said due to the untiring efforts of women and men of the Ministry of Health and previous investments in infectious disease prevention, Malaysia’s response to Covid-19 has been exemplary thus far and ahead of many countries.
“However, the World Health Organisation has recently increased its Covid-19 risk assessment to the highest level of alert or highest level of risk assessment in terms of spread and impact,” he cautioned.
“We appear to be on the precipice of a pandemic, if we’re not already in one.”
Besides that, a health minister is needed now more than ever in order to communicate developments and progress to the Malaysian public of the ongoing efforts by the government to curtail the health threat, Azrul said.
“Strong and competent leadership makes a difference,” he noted.
As of today, more than 3,000 people have died from Covid-19, which originated in China. China reported 42 new deaths and 202 new infections. The number of infections in China is the lowest since the end of January, reported AlJazeera.
Meanwhile, Iran has announced 11 more deaths, bringing its death toll to 54, the most outside China, while the number of cases in Italy — said to be the centre of the outbreak in Europe — has jumped to 1,694. The Czech Republic, Scotland, the Dominican Republic, have all confirmed their first cases of Covid-19.