Pandemic worse where there are weak govts, says Adeeba

PETALING JAYA: What has political uncertainty got to do with the Covid-19 pandemic? Plenty, says Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman, a specialist on infectious diseases and dean of medicine at Universiti Malaya.

She said countries facing political turmoil and with weak social institutions, such as Peru, Bolivia, South Africa, Brazil and Malaysia, are the ones that faced higher numbers of Covid-19 cases.

“We have had more severe Covid-19 infections and higher deaths compared to countries with higher political cohesiveness, income equality, trust in government and collectivism like New Zealand, Taiwan, Iceland, Japan, Singapore and Denmark,” she said.

She was speaking during a webinar titled Beyond Covid-19: Fighting infectious disease, organised by the Asian Strategy & Leadership Institute.

In Malaysia, Adeeba said political polarisation was visible to all, with trust in the government eroding especially after the rakyat reacted to double standards by politicians.

“It eroded trust among the public. Also, U-turns in the SOPs were instrumental in the erosion of trust.”

Due to that, she said the current administration had a “big job” in regaining public trust.

Adeeba said political will was needed to enable science-based evidence to be used.

When questioned on the reliability of the data given by the government, she said Malaysia has been struggling with data especially over the last few days.

She said it was “not anyone’s fault” but the system needed to be updated.

“We are still putting out patient data, post operation data. This is essential, given in making clinical and public health decisions on the go,” she said.

“In the last few days, there has been confusion over the number of deaths because the system was overwhelmed.

“We did not have the chance to put in an automated, digitalised nationwide network to enable us to work,” she added.

Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman said trust in the government eroded especially after the rakyat reacted to double standards by politicians.

Yesterday, the health ministry reported 100 Covid-19 deaths, with 492 backlog cases which were unreported prior to that.

At a global level of preparedness to handle a pandemic, Adeeba said most countries had good blueprints but Covid-19 still caught the world unprepared.

“We need to be vigilant and be better prepared for the next (health crisis),” she said.

Effective surveillance systems to detect data and modelling to see how it spreads, public health response and development of vaccines are crucial to combat another pandemic.

Outdated equipment also had to be replaced with a more robust and more specialised workforce.

“Investments are needed in telemedicine and wastewater testing to detect and predict newer pathogens. We also need to work hand in hand with civil societies to help marginalised communities,” she said.

Health deputy director-general Dr Hishamshah Mohd Ibrahim said they were looking at best treatments for severe patients, on ways to harness digital technologies and efficacy of vaccination.

“We are also looking at ways to utilise digital systems for home quarantine where health officers can be alerted for immediate response,” he said during the webinar.

Trials on the use of Ivermectin will also be completed soon, he added.

As of April this year, he also said more people want to be vaccinated with 85% agreeing, 5% disagreeing and 10% unsure about being vaccinated. In December 2020, 67% agreed, 16% disagreed and 17% were unsure.

“The numbers of those disagreeing are small but their voice has been loud,” he added.

By : Minderjeet Kaur – FMT

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