Malaysia needs one million non-medical volunteers to assist frontliners

KUALA LUMPUR: The country’s efficiency in managing the Covid-19 pandemic continues to be recognised globally and this time through the ranking of the Covid Performance Index by Lowy Institute, a think tank based in Sydney, Australia.

According to the findings, Malaysia is in 16th place, ahead of Finland, Norway and South Korea, with an average score of 71 percent, three places below neighbouring Singapore, which is ranked 13th.

While it can be considered an encouraging achievement, local medical experts are of the opinion that the current Covid-19 situation in the country, which has claimed more than 700 lives and recorded more than 200,000 in cumulative cases, requires the government to make strategic changes.

President of the Malaysian Association of Public Health Physicians, Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar said this was mainly to prevent frontline workers from extreme fatigue that could affect their health and performance in discharging their duties.

The former World Health Organisation consultant for Non-Communicable Disease Prevention (NCD) programme in Vietnam said it was time for non-medical volunteers to be called as is the primary healthcare practice in Thailand and Vietnam.

According to him, the volunteers can be assigned to perform simple tasks, such as contact tracing, monitoring compliance with standard operating procedures and on those under home quarantine, as well as to disseminate health information, including in rural areas.

“It is better that we call for a million volunteers, representing 32 million people… they must not be from existing government agencies that already have a huge workload.

“These volunteers have to be available in every locality in the towns and villages, and they must be trained with a specific module by an authority and given support. The National Disaster Management Agency and the National Security Council can coordinate and monitor,” he added.

Meanwhile, director of the Tropical Infectious Disease Research and Education Centre, Universiti Malaya, Prof Dr Sazaly Abu Bakar said Malaysia also needed to establish cooperation and exchange views with countries that managed to control mortality rate such as Singapore, Taiwan and China.

“If possible, we should also see the development in the treatment in other countries, for example China, which uses traditional methods,” he said.

Dr Sazaly also expressed the need for the views of experts from local universities to be considered and applied, rather than simply leaving the matter to the Health Ministry alone.

Prior to this, 46 health experts had proposed that a special Covid-19 task force be formed, with members comprising medical and economic experts, as well as from sectors, to provide advice and coordinate the responses from the various ministries and agencies in the government. – Bernama