Lessons Learned from Malaysia’s Battle Against Covid-19

Covid-19 has Prepared Malaysia for Future Pandemics

The Covid-19 pandemic thrust the Ministry of Health to the fore with the public depending on the rapid response of the Ministry in dispensing care, treatment, and advice. The pandemic was the first in recent history to cause global alarm, and while Malaysia had painful lessons to learn in the midst, there were also successes.

Given the country’s experience in dealing with Covid-19, the Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Health, Datuk Dr Hishamshah Mohd Ibrahim, representing Tan Sri Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, the Director- General of Health, had plenty of wisdom to draw on in his keynote address, “Lessons Learned from Malaysia’s Battle Against Covid-19”.

He began by quoting from an article in Frontiers in Public Health1, that Malaysia’s response followed the framework of knowing the enemy or source identification, and fighting the enemy or control strategies. Datuk Dr Hishamshah stressed the importance of being able to rapidly identify emerging pathogens to figure out how to limit their spread. It is also vital, he said, to prepare for sudden shifts in supply-demand dynamics when it comes to medical supplies such as PPEs, ventilators, and ICU beds. In this, Malaysia managed relatively well in mobilising its National Security Council (NSC) and its National Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre (CPRC).

In the Covid-19 pandemic, vaccines play a key role in bringing the disease under control. However, nonpharmaceutical measures such as lockdowns, closures of schools, compulsory work-from-home arrangements, and bans on mass gatherings did their part in the pre-vaccine stages of the pandemic. Adherence to safety measures is still necessary.

Datuk Dr Hishamshah highlighted the role that the private sector played in patient care and hospitalization which helped to reduce public burden, the beginning, he said, of closer public-private health cooperation. The session’s moderator, Datuk Dr Kuljit Singh, President of the Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia, agreed, stating that the private sector is only too happy to assist where it could, and the framework for cooperation that is now in place as a result of the pandemic only requires fine-tuning in preparation for the next pandemic.

To the question of whether Malaysia is ready to face future pandemics, Datuk Dr Hishamshah’s response was a confident, “Yes! We certainly can. However, we have learnt that mitigation of crisis management needs multiple interventions and unprecedented changes and manipulations no matter how prepared we are, and on that I can say that Malaysia is now more prepared to face such challenges than ever before.”