KUALA LUMPUR, June 13 — Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein today called for more ‘agility and flexibility’ in Malaysia’s governance to adapt quickly and be more decisive, having weathered the Covid-19 pandemic for at least a year now.
Commemorating the 450th day since the first movement control order (MCO) was implemented nationwide, Hishammuddin said the greatest tragedy for Malaysia would be if Malaysians were unable to reflect on their own mistakes and weaknesses.
As time went on, Hishammuddin said Malaysia may have lost that delicate balance between prioritising public health and our economic interests as pandemic fatigue sets in.
“Today, 450 days on — we must look back and reflect. The unknown is no longer as mysterious as it was last year.
“Our focus then was to strike the right balance between lives and livelihoods, which has always been central to our efforts,” he said in a blog post today.
He questioned how the country will face more challenges in the post-pandemic era such as new variants and mutations, the future of our children’s education, the state of our mental health, and the fate of our economy should its people not change for the better.
“We have always been well managed in the past, and this can be attributed to our uncompromising institutions.
“But unfortunately, our systems are so entrenched that it has rendered us somewhat inflexible at times like this.
“We are at war — this is an unprecedented crisis. Extraordinary times require extraordinary solutions,” he added.
He recounted the earlier days of the Covid-19 pandemic last year where Malaysia initially allowed the fear of the unknown and the intolerance of uncertainty got the better of Malaysians when the first case reached the country’s shores.
However, Hishammuddin said Malaysians managed to pick themselves up and quickly adapted to the circumstances as the country navigated one of the most difficult periods the country has faced.
“We did not go into denial and quickly adapted, learning together with many other countries facing a similar unknown,” he added.
Following his observation as a Cabinet minister and interactions with his counterparts, Hishammuddin then outlined an integrated approach to public health comprising three suggestions that Malaysia should focus on to maneuver out of this ‘pandemic paradox’.
“Firstly, let’s address the current MCO. We must find a common ground, as we did before, to balance the importance of protecting and saving lives, and opening the economy to sustain our livelihoods.
“As it is, there should be no more changes and we must remain consistent on our existing SOPs.
“Unnecessary and reactive changes will put everything we have achieved thus far at risk,” he said.
Secondly, Hishammuddin said Malaysia may need to seriously consider expanding its vaccine arsenal to allay the peoples’ concerns in light of the growing calls by the public for a faster vaccination rollout.
To date, Malaysia has only approved the use of Pfizer, Sinovac and AstraZeneca vaccines as part of its mainstream national immunisation programme.
“I understand the relevant authorities need to undergo the necessary due diligence, but we cannot follow normal procedures under abnormal circumstances.
“Our agencies must be in line with other international bodies in issuing emergency approvals quickly,” he said, adding that bureaucracy remained a key barrier to swift implementation as it essentially boiled down to doing things right versus doing the right thing.
Lastly, Hishammuddin said Malaysia needed to pursue greater mass testing to better manage outbreaks all over the country as rightfully noted by health experts and political leaders.
“The reality is that when more people are detected early and or immune, lives are protected, and death rates will dwindle.
“This is ultimately our main goal, a systematic transition out of the pandemic for Malaysians to return to normalcy,” he said.
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