KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 10 — Malaysians were becoming disillusioned with the country’s political leaders whom they blamed for negating the sacrifices made so far to try and contain Covid-19 in Malaysia.
After Malaysia’s Covid-19 cases soared to over two times what they had been during the height of the second wave, authorities’ reminders and messages of assurance that once calmed the country have now become a source of angst among Malaysians.
Political analyst Azmil Tayeb told the South China Morning Post that the public anger was understandable as Malaysians saw the double standards on full display during the premature Sabah state election, which was held when Covid-19 cases were rising in the state.
Azmil said there was also a common perception that it was “politicians, with reckless disregard for the virus by not wearing masks and maintaining social distance, who brought back the virus to the peninsula.”
This failure to abide by the so-called standard operating procedures (SOPs) during the state election was not simply perception; Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin conceded as much in his last special address in which he warned that stricter enforcement may be forthcoming.
In his broadcast, Muhyiddin attested to seeing a laxity in adherence to the SOPs implemented expressly to minimise the risk of Covid-19 transmission amid the premature state poll.
Asia Pacific Paediatric Association secretary-general Zulkifli Ismail said this lapse was inexcusable when Malaysia had already witnessed the dangers of allowing mass gatherings alongside Covid-19 after the Sri Petaling cluster forced the country into a movement control order in March.
“The Sabah election occurred when we knew a great deal more and yet those responsible were still reckless enough to carry on with the campaigning and elections.
“We hear our leaders talk about the new normal, but are we willing to put it into practice? If we are, we can control the spread,” he was quoted as saying in the SCMP report.
Since the election, Sabah has become the epicentre of the country’s third wave of Covid-19 cases, with hundreds of cases reported daily.
The growth of cases has also been accompanied by a worrying rise in Malaysia’s Covid-19 deaths, with six reported yesterday alone.
Increasingly, the country has also begun to see the disease hit places that had so far been spared, such as schools.
During the MCO, schools and universities had been among the most guarded locations, with the government once suggesting that these could be kept close for the entire year.
This time around, however, authorities have not responded with the same magnitude.
Yesterday, parents of students at SK Bangsar all kept their children at home after authorities had seen fit to keep the school open despite the confirmation of two Covid-19 cases there, resulting in a 100-per cent absentee rate.
The Education Ministry subsequently closed SK Bangsar for seven days, ostensibly for sanitisation works.
However, the sequence of events was evidence of the eroding public trust in authorities’ ability to safeguard their health and welfare.
According to a separate report in The Straits Times (ST), schools in Selangor have seen a spike in absenteeism as parents proactively kept their children at home in the face of the government’s decision to keep these open.
One teacher at a school in Selangor said that half her students were not attending at the moment.
“Many parents have expressed their concern, so they took the liberty to stop sending their kids to school,” the teacher was quoted as saying in the ST’s report.
One parent said she was keeping her children home for at least two weeks as a precaution despite there being no Covid-19 cases at their school.
Yesterday, the Education Ministry announced that it was now empowered to close schools in Covid-19 red zones independently of the Health Ministry.
Malaysia is facing a third wave of Covid-19 infections, which saw cases rise exponentially since last month to hit a high of 691 last Tuesday.