KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 15 — Deputy Health Minister II Aaron Ago Dagang has touted the apparently unexpected benefits of Covid-19 in improving face mask usage, personal hygiene, and patience in queuing up.
The Kanowit MP from Sarawak also told a forum last week that the new norms of behaviour amid the pandemic — which has killed nearly 930,000 people worldwide and wrecked economies — resulted in tighter controls at Malaysia’s entry gates and increased care for the elderly and young people.
“This Covid, to me, is a blessing in disguise,” Aaron said at the “Program Live Streaming Abas Orang Kamek (AOK): Kafe Kamek” last September 8 at the Ministry of Health (MOH) headquarters in Putrajaya, organised by MOH and the Sarawak Public Communications Unit, Sarawak Volunteers, Pejabat Perhubungan Sarawak, and CATS FM. (Watch the video hyperlinked from minute 41:43). The deputy health minister was asked about new norms in the Covid-19 outbreak.
“Blessing in disguise in the sense that previously, many of us were not aware about wearing face masks. If we look at the culture in other countries, like Korea and Japan, many times we see that when they come to our country as tourists, it’s very normal for them to have face masks.”
He added that physical distancing and washing one’s hands frequently have also become new norms in Malaysia to stave off coronavirus infection.
“We see before this, we enter a restaurant, we go to hospital, clinics, go to banks, board an airplane, everybody rush [sic] to be first. But with the current situation, when we have been instructed to do distancing and the like, people tend to be patient. If before, we go to the supermarket, nobody cares, you just go in. But now, this is the new norm that will turn into public behaviour for our rakyat.
“It’s a situation or change of life that is quite important to us. Not just that, there are many new norms, like the government controlling movements at entry gates. Then, we take care of the elderly and young people. At the workplace, we have distancing. All of these are new norms,” the deputy health minister added.
Covid-19, the worst pandemic in a century since the Spanish Flu 1918-1919, has infected nearly 29.3 million people worldwide to date, including 9,946 confirmed cases in Malaysia. A total of 128 people have died from the novel coronavirus in Malaysia.
Cancer treatment in Malaysia is projected to be delayed by three to six months, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, that may worsen cancer patients’ prognosis. Malaysia is also estimated to suffer a backlog of 151,717 surgeries, with an 11-month backlog clearance time, while the rate of hospital admissions due to complications for diabetes and kidney disease may increase due to missed clinic appointments during the Movement Control Order (MCO). Three government psychosocial hotlines received almost 12,000 calls from March to August at the height of the outbreak in Malaysia, as callers sought help for job loss, domestic abuse, isolation, and reduced access to assistance services during the MCO.
Malaysia’s gross domestic product (GDP) contracted 17.1 per cent in the second quarter of 2020, amid a strict seven-week nationwide lockdown from March to May, making Malaysia the worst-performing country in Asean and representing the worst economic performance in Malaysia since the 1998 Asian Financial Crisis. Malaysia’s unemployment rate shot up to a record high this year of 5.3 per cent in May, before declining to 4.9 per cent in June, with 773,200 jobless people.