Malaysia’s Response to COVID-19 and Disaster Risk Reduction The first COVID-19 case appeared in Malaysia in early February 2020 but a local outbreak only emerged in March, prompting the introduction of a nationwide Movement Control Order (MCO) which helped significantly reduce the spread of the virus. The Government of Malaysia enforced a MCO starting on March 18, 2020 to break the chain of COVID-19 local transmission. Since the onset of the outbreak, Malaysia has established more than 140 quarantine centres in different parts of the country, with the National Disaster Management Agency (NADMA) monitoring the facilities.
The Government announced an initial financial stimulus amounting to RM 20.0 billion in February 2020 and later a RM 250 billion Economic Stimulus Package (ESP) called PRIHATIN. The package has provided governmental support to society, covering people of various backgrounds from students and families to business owners. A budget of COVIDrelated measures worth RM 17 billion has been included in 2021 budget for long term recovery and improving health care facilities.
The Crisis Preparedness and Response Centre (CPRC) was activated by the Ministry of Health (MoH) in close coordination with the NADMA to respond to the health emergency and improve disaster preparedness, all of which played a crucial role in responding to COVID-19.
The CPRC coordinated the National Plan for COVID-19, receiving strong support on the implementation of the non-pharmaceutical interventions from the National Security Council (NSC).
The Ministry of Health (MoH) played a crucial role in ensuring maximum readiness to contain the spread of the virus. Among the earliest efforts taken by the MoH to prevent disease transmission was the enforcement of health screening at all points of entry. Another measure taken by the MoH to cushion the impact of COVID-19 was the setting up of a special fund known as the COVID-19 Fund, to raise money to be channeled to patients, particularly those affected financially due to the quarantine procedure.
NADMA collaborated with various stakeholders to assess impacts of COVID-19 to national development priorities, vulnerable groups and SME/MSMEs and building continuity between immediate measures and longer-term recovery. NADMA is developing a General Observers Report (GOR) on the COVID-19 response in Malaysia drawing on observations from quarantine centres around Malaysia and other inputs from the COVID-19 response undertaken by various agencies and its partners. The GOR will cover documentation of lessons learnt for better crisis preparedness planning in future.
The Malaysian government went to great lengths to ensure a comprehensive approach to risk communications and community engagement (RCCE), working to establish trust with the population and provide transparency regarding the COVID-19 situation, with the full support of WHO for a whole of government and whole of society approach.
Malaysia has made tremendous progress in strengthening capacities to respond to health emergencies and disasters in the last decade. This was accomplished through use of a step-by-step strategy for strengthening health security, well-established control and coordination mechanisms, a multisectoral and collaborative approach, and a robust national surveillance system. Malaysia’s well-coordinated responses to the current Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated its ability to put in place a clear vision and plans led by competent, empowered institutions acting on scientific evidence for the public good.