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Coronavirus: Is Malaysia failing in the ‘new normal’?

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We need an independent national crisis team of untainted experts and leaders to call the shots, JD Lovrenciear writes.

The menacing coronavirus pandemic is here to stay – longer than we would have thought. 

If an updated advisory by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is used as a benchmark, it would suggest that Malaysia is failing to keep up to the ‘new normal’ code of conduct. 

Let us without fear look at Malaysia’s missteps in the battle against the pandemic, even though we don’t know what the future holds.

Leaders have failed to lead by example and have flopped in motivating the people. 

Business communities have put profits and financial outcomes above social health. 

The government, under a prime minister appointed following a backdoor political coup, is jittery, apparently more concerned about economic and political outcomes than ensuring health priorities are not compromised. 

The national focus is not on the coronavirus, but on politics.

Decision-making appears fragmented within vanguard institutions, as political juggling takes precedence. 

The public understanding and appreciation of the guidelines and standards that need to be kept in this new normal environment leaves much to be desired.

Even the basic need and correct way to wear a mask or maintain social distancing has not become a habit at all levels of society. 

In short, discipline is not a way of life here – unlike Japan, for example. 

The recent revelations of how people have been arrested, carted away to lock-ups or holding centres, detained and punished for flouting the new-normal rules make a mockery of our national commitment to battle the coronavirus. 

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Press reports highlighting how many migrant workers in Sabah, many of them undocumented, are denied basic human rights and are at risk to the coronavirus tell us more about how Malaysia is failing in the battle against the pandemic. 

It does not absolve the government of day to pin the current Covid-19 outbreak in Sabah – which has spread to the peninsula – on migrants. 

The question that the government is too embarrassed to answer is, why are there so many undocumented migrants in the first place? 

Our prisons are now seen to be Covid-19 hotbeds, despite netizens raising the alarm early, during the first wave of the pandemic. 

Add to this the nation’s unsettled political turmoil, and we have a situation where the pandemic, along with economic catastrophe, threatens to overwhelm the nation.

What we will do if the country plunges deep into a third wave in the months ahead? 

A country that is constantly being destabilised by politicking, merely to grab and profit from power and control at all costs, cannot prepare its people to fight the pandemic. 

We cannot develop and strengthen a new normal culture in a nation almost bankrupted by decades of untold corruption, drawing us closer to collapse in the face of a global health emergency. 

So have we flopped in battling the coronavirus? Or are we a model of success to be emulated by the world? 

Unless we are prepared to face the truth – no matter how much it hurts – and acknowledge the price to be paid and take action immediately, we face the possibility of being seriously wounded in this battle that could take longer than anyone expected.

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We need an independent national crisis team of untainted experts and leaders to call the shots. It is now or never. 

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