KUALA LUMPUR, May 19 — The Malaysian government told the World Health Organization (WHO) that it practiced an inclusive targeted testing approach by screening migrants for coronavirus.
At the WHO’s 73rd World Health Assembly held on video-link yesterday, Health Minister Dr Adham Baba said community engagement has led to the success of national movement restrictions to curb the Covid-19 pandemic that has infected nearly 6,500 people in Malaysia.
“In embracing the spirit of Leaving No One Behind in the Universal Health Coverage, we have conducted a targeted health screening approach, for our migrant population regardless of citizenship status residing in Malaysia,” said Dr Adham in Malaysia’s country statement to the annual assembly of the WHO’s decision-making body.
Although the Ministry of Health (MOH) has run Covid-19 testing on foreign nationals deemed to be at high risk of infection, immigration authorities have detained undocumented migrant workers in areas placed under total lockdown.
Dr Adham also told the health gathering of ministers and officials from all over the world that people in vulnerable situations have been financially struck the hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic that impacted socio-economic sectors across the spectrum.
“The government of Malaysia has prioritised sufficient financing to contain this pandemic and to protect our people,” he said.
“This has been done by mobilising funds, namely the Economic Stimulus Package, targeted towards these vulnerable households, as they have been hit the hardest during this Covid-19 pandemic.”
The Perikatan Nasional administration launched an RM260 billion Prihatin economic stimulus package that comprised grants to businesses and cash assistance for low-income and middle class Malaysians, as the economy stalled and people lost jobs during the seven-week-long Movement Control Order (MCO) from March 18 to May 3. The lockdown has been eased from May 4 to June 9 under the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO), though borders and schools remain closed, and gatherings are banned.
“The government of Malaysia recognises that during this period of social distancing and avoidance of mass gatherings, digital connectivity is of paramount importance,” said Dr Adham.
“We have ensured that our people are well updated daily via strategic risk communication, by relaying latest Covid-19 updates.”
The National Security Council (NSC) has been sending messages to Malaysians’ mobile phones on MCO rules and updates on the Covid-19 outbreak, while MOH regularly publishes data on daily coronavirus cases and deaths.
Malaysia stressed that regional cooperation must be strengthened to plan ahead for the post-pandemic era, amid the “new normal” on safe distancing.
“As traders and businesses look forward to reopening their businesses, we require utmost cooperation from our communities and this can only be done by educating them with facts and evidence.”
Dr Adham also expressed Malaysia’s cooperation in the research and development of medicines and vaccines for Covid-19, noting that Malaysia is part of the WHO Solidarity Trial on potential treatments for the coronavirus.
“Ultimately, we are all fighting against the same enemy and with unity and good regional cooperation, we will win this.”
The Guardian reported last Sunday that the sole resolution before the World Health Assembly this year is an European Union (EU) proposal for a voluntary patent pool, which means that drug and vaccine companies would be pressured to give up monopoly so that all countries can make or purchase affordable versions.
“If we can develop a vaccine that is produced by the world, for the whole world, this will be a unique global public good of the 21st century,” the leaders of Italy, France, Germany and Norway, together with the European commission and council, were quoted saying in a joint statement.
The United States and the United Kingdom, however, are reportedly pushing against the open licensing of patents for drugs and future vaccines against the coronavirus.