Commentary: Malaysia is Beating All These Brutal COVID-19 Expectations

People wait in line to be tested for coronavirus at a makeshift centre, during the movement control order due to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Apr 18, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng)

SYDNEY: To the casual observer, Malaysia’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak may seem bungled.

Media reports highlighted a mass religious gathering later linked to thousands of infections and the Ministry of Women’s advice that wives maintain a presentable appearance and avoiding nagging and sarcasm under lockdown.

But Malaysia’s response deserves greater recognition as a meaningful example for countries that have insecure borders, significant mobile and vulnerable populations, larger households in denser living conditions and less than ideal political situations.

Malaysia’s surge in COVID-19 cases came just two weeks after a political crisis saw the government change hands outside of the election cycle.


Malaysia’s efforts have been spearheaded by the reassuring leadership of Health Director-General Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, whose resume combines a depth of medical knowledge with formidable public policy experience.

He and the frontline professionals at the Ministry of Health have been supported by politicians to lead the response rather than being overshadowed by them.

Activities have been consistent and nationally synchronised and public messaging clear, factual and accessible across new and old media. A strong and well-resourced public service with depoliticised leadership is proving invaluable.


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