IPOH, Nov 14 – Perikatan Nasional (PN) chairman Muhyiddin Yassin yesterday defended his decision to put Malaysia under “total lockdown” during his 17-month stint as prime minister (PM), saying that decisions made were based on the best available evidence.
The 75-year old, who is looking to take the prime ministership for the second time, said all indicators had pointed to a disease that was spreading rapidly across the country.
“The numbers were going up every day. We were seeing new (Covid-19) cases in the tens of thousands. You can’t imagine the position I was in. It was unprecedented,” Muhyiddin told voters at the Jelajah PN Best Tambun here last night.
“Malaysia was not the only country that went into lockdown. The entire world was under lockdown. In the early days, we had no experience with Covid-19 so we had to make sure that people stayed indoors and were not out and about.
“In retrospect, that was what we should have done.”
The Bersatu president described being called “Father of Movement Control Orders (MCO)” by Pakatan Harapan chairman Anwar Ibrahim as a badge of honour, claiming that the imposition of multiple MCOs under his administration had saved lives.
Muhyiddin refuted Anwar’s claim that Malaysia has the highest per capita deaths for Covid “in the world”. Muhyddin said countries including the United States, United Kingdom, and Italy had far higher death rates, both per capita and in absolute terms.
“Had it not been for the MCOs, our cumulative cases would have gone up to 10 to 20 million cases,” Muhyiddin said. “Our death rate now is about 36,000. If we continued to allow people to run around freely, it could have hit up to 80,000 to 100,000.”
The Ministry of Health (MOH) has never published modelling of projected Covid-19 fatalities, only predicted infection case figures based on the R number, or the number of people that one infected person will pass on a virus to, on average.
Malaysia’s official Covid-19 death toll stood at 36,548 as of yesterday, among the country’s total 4.9 million coronavirus infections formally recorded.
Muhyiddin’s claim of a potential 10 million to 20 million total Covid-19 cases without movement restrictions is equivalent to 31 per cent to 61 per cent of the country’s 32.7 million population.
MOH has never published modelling of cumulative infections either. Muhyiddin imposed various MCOs during most of his administration, including a total seven-week lockdown on the entire country in the early phase of the pandemic from March to May 2020.
PN candidate for Tambun, Ahmad Faizal Azumu, said Muhyiddin’s decision to introduce “curfews” to stem Covid spread was “the right decision”, adding that many lives were saved with Malaysia placing orders for vaccines early in the pandemic.
“In the US, because they didn’t have an intelligent leader – at the time, the US president was Donald Trump – he allowed people to run free without wearing masks. As a result, over a million people have died due to Covid,” Ahmad Faizal said at an earlier event.
Muhyiddin told voters that Covid-19 vaccines were “a gift from Perikatan Nasional”.