The government and prime minister have emphasised, on many occasions, the importance of a “whole-of-society” in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic. However, what is happening on the ground is the total opposite.
In the past two weeks, I have been going to vaccination centres (PPVs) in my constituency on a daily basis to assist as a volunteer. This is also part of my duty, as an MP, to monitor the situation on the ground and to resolve any issues arising.
I noticed from the onset that there were gaps at most PPVs. For example, some PPVs are short of basic equipment such as chairs, water dispensers, and wheelchairs.
Officers and volunteers at the PPVs do not have time to get lunch. There were insufficient volunteers, especially in the morning, thus leading to long waiting time and overcrowding.
Such operational issues were expected, given the scale of the national immunisation programme. My office has been working together with the PPVs to resolve these issues. NGOs and community leaders were also present to assist where possible.
However, the Melaka state government has recently decided to ban “unregistered” volunteers from helping in PPVs.
This decision is utterly appalling. It is contrary to the “whole-of-society” approach emphasised by the government. I believe the decision is partly driven by political motives to prevent opposition MPs from contributing.
The heads of PPVs have been instructed to only allow volunteers under the MyVac program to assist. However, the MyVac programme has major bureaucratic and budgetary constraints.
From my observation, there were insufficient MyVac volunteers in PPVs to assist. I was also informed that some PPVs have requested for additional volunteers from MyVac, but none were sent.
Many members of the public have signed up for the MyVac programme, but they were not called to assist.
Last week, I have also proposed to the government to set up two additional PPVs in Melaka town to ease the congestion in other centres and to quicken the vaccination programme.
The proposed centres were offered free of charge by community organisations. The organisations and my office also pledged to mobilise volunteers to run the centres for free.
In June 2021, the average doses administered per day in Melaka was approximately 3,900 doses. In July 2021, Melaka is expected to receive 360,000 doses of vaccine supply.
We have to administer an average of 12,000 doses per day to fully utilise this vaccine supply.
Yet, I was later told that the state government was not keen to take up our offer to set up additional PPVs for free.
In refusing the help from the community and MPs, the Melaka State government has prioritised unnecessary bureaucracy over efficiency.
What is needed now is swift action on the ground to ensure the success of the national immunisation programmes, not the same old “government-knows-best” approach.
Opposition MPs and community groups do not have any political or personal agenda in wanting to assist in the vaccination programme.
We just want to ensure that the job gets done as soon as possible so that Malaysia can start rebuilding again from the devastating impact of Covid-19.
Instead of being welcomed to help, we are made to beg — not for help, but to help the government.
Khoo Poay Tiong is Member of Parliament for Kota Melaka.
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