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Covid-19 a national security concern, calls for whole-of-society approach

 COMMENT | The Covid-19 is sweeping the globe, affecting 135 countries so far, with cases surpassing 100,000 only nine weeks after it was first reported. World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared it to be a pandemic, while United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres characterised it as “a pandemic we have not experienced”.

In Malaysia, a tabligh event which was attended by an estimated 15,000 people on Feb 27 to Mar 1 has sparked a new cluster of transmission and is feared to have started a second wave of the viral spread in Malaysia. The authorities have been working hard to track down the participants, but this is straining their contact tracing capacities. There should be no place for complacency, and the government must consider putting more drastic measures in anticipation of possible deterioration.

In that regard, the battle against Covid-19 is no longer merely a public health issue. At this scale, there is no doubt that it is a national security concern that has a deep impact on our society and economy. A whole of government and whole-of-society approach is hence warranted.

The leadership of the National Security Council (NSC) will be essential in this case to coordinate efforts to curb Covid-19. A special meeting (with the inclusion of the health minister) should convene to discuss the various approach in combating Covid-19, including in the following aspects:

i) readiness of healthcare systems

ii) public safety and protective measures

iii) communications and public awareness efforts

iv) the resilience of our economy

v) the duties of employers, religious authorities and organisers of large events.

The council must also treat this as a national security concern and hold regular sessions to monitor closely and review the policies as the situation unfolds, at the same time organise the efforts...

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