Parliament Committee To Review Covid-19 Public Health Response

Health, science and innovation PSC chairman Dr Kelvin Yii says the committee’s review, which is not aimed at fault-finding, will cover the Covid-19 response across three governments.

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 14 — Parliament’s special select committee (PSC) on health, science and innovation is set to evaluate Malaysia’s public health response across three governments to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Dewan Rakyat committee’s chairman, Dr Kelvin Yii, said the review would look at the government’s handling of the pandemic since Covid-19 was first detected in the country in January 2020 under the then-Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration, through the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government and the current administration led by Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

“This review will entail lessons learned to date, best practices and weaknesses that we can improve from each phase of the pandemic in our country,” Dr Yii told CodeBlue yesterday.

“This report can also then be set as a guidebook for future management of surges of Covid-19 and even for future pandemics.

“The aim of such a review of course is not to find fault, but to document views from experts from different fields, including the private sector, academia, non-government organisations (NGOs), and others to get a more holistic view on our approach towards Covid-19 and learn from them.”

He added that the PSC targeted to complete the review this year so that its findings can be tabled in Parliament in the first session of next year.

PH was only in government for slightly more than a month during the Covid-19 epidemic in Malaysia that began with the first cases detected on January 25 last year, as PN came into power under then-Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on March 1, 2020. Ismail Sabri was appointed PM last August 21.

A tight seven-week lockdown from mid-March last year managed to curb Covid-19, but the virus ravaged Sabah and Labuan after Sabah’s state election late September. Subsequent lockdowns failed to rein in the virus that sent Klang Valley’s health care system into collapse last July. Covid-19 also overwhelmed hospitals in multiple states at the height of the epidemic in August, with more than 24,000 new infections recorded nationwide in 24 hours on August 26.

Sarawak saw Covid-19 cases, hospital admissions, and deaths rise rapidly since early August, despite being among the first out of the gate with vaccination, attributed to the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant. Although infections in Sarawak began falling mid September, amid a decline in testing, fatalities and intensive care unit (ICU) cases are still on an uptrend. Anecdotes from health workers in Sibu and Sarikei hospitals indicate a deluge of sick Covid-19 patients. The state’s positive rate is currently at a high 15.8 per cent.

The health, science and innovation PSC is due to first issue a report on its recommendations to the government on how to transition safely into the endemic Covid-19 phase. All PSC meetings are considered secret and are not broadcast publicly, unlike in the United Kingdom.

DAP veteran leader and Iskandar Puteri MP Lim Kit Siang yesterday urged the health, science and innovation PSC to conduct public hearings on the Covid-19 response, pointing out that Malaysia has performed worse than Indonesia in the pandemic.

The United Kingdom Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee and Health and Social Care Committee recently issued a joint report on the country’s Covid-19 response that was described as “one of the most important public health failures” ever experienced in the UK.

Malaysia tops the ASEAN region both in cumulative Covid-19 cases and deaths per capita, based on data from Our World In Data. As of October 11, Malaysia reported a total 71,586 cases per million people, nearly three times higher than Thailand (24,602) and even India (24,390).

Malaysia reported a total 837 coronavirus-related deaths per million people, exceeding Indonesia (516), the Philippines (357), and Myanmar (331). Malaysia also racked up more Covid-19 fatalities per capita than India’s 324 deaths per million people.

As of yesterday, more than 2.3 million confirmed Covid-19 cases have been recorded in Malaysia, infecting 7.2 per cent of the country’s 32.7 million population. More than 27,000 people have succumbed to the coronavirus, including over 5,000 brought-in-dead cases.

Covid-19 cases, along with hospital admissions and deaths, however have been falling nationwide since late August. About two-thirds of Malaysia’s total population has been fully vaccinated, on par with the United Kingdom and the European Union and even exceeding the United States. Malaysia yesterday opened Covid-19 boosters of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine for the elderly and frontline workers double vaccinated with the mRNA vaccine, as well as third doses for immunocompromised individuals.

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