MP SPEAKS | June 28, 2021, was a day of infamy for Malaysia when our Covid-19 death toll crossed the 5,000 mark. By June 29, there had been an additional 107 deaths bringing the grim tally to 5,108. Never in the history of Malaysia have so many died from a single cause in so short a time.
Looking at the cold statistics can make us forget that the 5,108 dead are human beings, who loved and were loved by family members and friends. Countless families have been ruthlessly torn apart. We will never know how many registered but died whilst waiting for vaccines or could have been saved if the vaccines were ordered earlier by a lackadaisical government.
Even Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister James Masing said his younger brother Jantai Masing, 68, who died due to Covid-19 at the Kapit Hospital on May 31, would have lived if he had been given the vaccine.
The Perikatan Nasional (PN) government has refused to admit their failure to make any provision in the Budget 2021 passed last year to procure vaccines, but waited until April 2021 by appropriating emergency powers to tap into RM5 billion from the National Trust Fund Act, without the approval of Parliament.
Clearly, PN acted too slow and too late. Coupled with the abysmal mismanagement of Covid-19 that caused the latest record number of cases and deaths. Despite four weeks of total lockdown since June 1, the situation has not improved but has deteriorated alarmingly.
Total lockdown failed because PN govt failed
Looking at the number of cases alone is misleading. More important is the positivity rate, where infections are based on the number of tests done. On June 1 there were 100,885 tests producing 7,105 positive cases yielding a positivity rate of 7.04 percent, far above World Health Organisation’s recommendation of 5 percent.
On June 28, there were 61,025 tests producing 5,218 positive cases yielding a positivity rate of 8.55 percent. On June 29, there were 68,052 tests producing 6,437 positive cases yielding a positivity rate of 9.46 percent. This positivity rate of 9.46 percent is alarming and the highest this year despite the four weeks of total lockdown. The situation has just simply gotten worse.
Malaysia ranked worse than India, Indonesia Vietnam and Thailand
No wonder civil society and organisations such as the Malaysian Employers Federation and Small and Medium Enterprises Association (Samenta) openly said that the total lockdown movement control order (MCO) has failed.
The "2021 Bloomberg Covid Resilience Ranking" for the month of June relegated Malaysia significantly from 16th in January to 3rd last - ranking in 51st position out of 53 economies measured in the economic size of more than US$200 billion. Malaysia ranked worse than India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand.
The causes of failure are crystal clear. The PN government’s policy flip-flops and Covid-19 standard operating procedure (SOP) U-turns, as well as double standards in enforcement between VIPs and the rakyat, have not helped.
Neither has the failure of the prime minister and his ministers such as Azmin Ali, Annuar Musa, Zuraida Kamaruddin and the infamous Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali as well as countless deputy ministers, in complying with their own MCO restrictions.
Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Mustapa Mohamed and Deputy Parliament Speaker Mohd Rashid Hasnon are the latest to be caught breaching the SOP by respectively dining openly in a café and having a mass durian feast respectively in their parliamentary constituency.
And yet there is Azmin’s nefarious Slim by-election campaign speech on Aug 23, 2020, stating that fortunately, PN was in power because more Malaysians would have died from Covid-19 if Pakatan Harapan was still the government.
Azmin obviously lied. On Aug 23, 2020, the cumulative death toll was 125 with 9,267 cases. As of June 29 this year, the death toll has risen to 5,108 with a cumulative 745,703 cases. Since Aug 23 2020, 4,983 more Malaysians have died from the PN government’s incompetence and mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Of course, there is no apology nor remorse from Azmin for making such baseless and tasteless remarks.
Will I be next…
Amongst many who died was my friend and comrade, former Sabah MP Hsing Yin Shean, who died on June 1, days after contracting Covid-19.
Stories of an elderly couple who died together at their home or parents leaving their young children orphans are heartbreaking. Serial MCOs appear impotent to battle Covid-19 until we wonder whether we will be next.
“Under MCO 1.0, I had no knowledge of any friends infected with Covid-19, under MCO 2.0 I had friends with Covid-19, under total lockdown MCO 3.0 I had friends who tragically died from Covid-19. Should there be another MCO 4.0, I may be next…”
Loss of lives and livelihoods irreplaceable
The lives lost to Covid-19 does not reveal the true extent of the cost of loss of livelihood. The loss of livelihood has also led to a gruesome loss of lives for some.
When the MCO 1.0 and 2.0 was imposed last year, the police revealed that nationally there were 631 suicide cases in 2020 as compared to 609 in 2019, resulting from the loss of livelihood and family problems. For the first three months of 2021, there were 336 suicide cases, more than half of what was reported throughout 2020.
In Penang, there were 53 deaths by suicide during the first five months of 2021, nearly equal to the 58 deaths by suicide for the whole of 2020. The recent spate of Covid-19 related suicides has shaken the very moral fibre of our society. This is the hidden loss of lives and invisible cost that has scarred our national psyche.
We are united in grief at the calamitous loss of lives and livelihood. The country deserves better. Since the whole-of-government effort to battle Covid-19 has failed, it is up to us citizens to undertake a whole-of-society effort together with the king and state rulers to do the right thing to win against Covid-19.
This would be the best tribute to remember the 5,108 deaths and many others from Covid-19 related causes.
As St Francis of Assisi said: “Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
LIM GUAN ENG is DAP secretary-general and Bagan MP.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.