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Coronavirus: How Prepared Is Malaysia Against A Viral Threat

Coronavirus: How Prepared Is Malaysia Against A Viral Threat

Akmal Hakim

The ongoing 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak has had the world on its toes.

With nations across the globe taking necessary action to prevent the spread of the disease as well as treating those who have been infected, how well is Malaysia prepared to face such a viral threat?

Travel restrictions

Although Malaysia has not imposed a travel ban to prevent Chinese nationals from coming into the country, the government has officially stopped issuing travel visas to all Chinese nationals from Wuhan city, China as well as areas in the surrounding province of Hubei.

An online petition signed by Malaysians insisting on a ban towards Chinese nationals entering Malaysia following news of the infection.
(Credit: Screenshot via Change)

The restriction was made in response to coordinated efforts between Malaysia and China to contain the spread of the virus.

Wuhan city is said to be ground zero to the 2019-nCoV outbreak. The city along with other nearby areas, where more than 50 million people live, have been placed under strict quarantine by the Chinese government.

aerial photo of building
Aerial view of the quiet Hubei province in China.
(Credit: Stewart Edward via Unsplash)

To keep close tabs on developments coming out of the republic, Malaysia has also set up an Emergency Response Team at its embassy in Beijing. The embassy is also on standby to provide any needed assistance to Malaysians who are currently in China.

As usual, the government has also advised Malaysians to refrain from traveling to China and cautioned those returning to take all necessary precautions to keep safe.

Those who are experiencing symptoms related to 2019-nCoV are also advised to immediately get medical attention.

Image result for coronavirus symptoms
(Credit: The Sun)

On high alert

The nation is currently on “high surveillance” mode and is working to detect and prevent the spread of 2019-nCoV with various agencies and medical facilities have been placed on high alert and are on standby to respond to any reports of the viral disease.

Health authority personnel stationed at KLIA.
(Credit: Straits Times)

The Health Ministry was also prepared to freeze all leave applications for its healthcare personnel if the need arise

As part of the country’s first line of defense against the virus, Malaysia has deployed emergency response systems at all international points of entry.

This system includes more than 50 state-of-the-art thermal sensors set up at the country’s main entry points including the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).

Image result for malay mail klia thermal sensor
KLIA’s sensors have reportedly scanned more than 200,000 people since the country first received warnings of the viral outbreak.
(Credit: Malay Mail)

KLIA has also been equipped with a special Health Quarantine Center in order to manage any suspected cases.

The Health Ministry also said that anyone found positive for 2019-nCoV would be sent straight to the Sungai Buloh Hospital to receive immediate treatment.

Interestingly, the Sungai Buloh hospital was meant to be the site for Malaysia’s Centre for Infectious Diseases. In 2003 it was reported that the hospital would be equipped with advanced facilities to deal with cases of infectious disease.

Image result for hospital sungai buloh
(Credit: The Star)

Now the hospital stands as the country’s National Referral Centre for Infectious Diseases as mentioned by Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad.

Not our first rodeo

Though tensions are high the government gives its reassurance that the country is well prepared to face major infectious disease outbreaks.

In 2019, the county was ranked 18th in the Global Health Security Index that evaluates a nation’s preparedness in facing global biological events.

Laboratory Researcher
(Credit: National Cancer Institute via Unsplash)

This puts Malaysia ahead of Asian countries like Singapore and Japan as well as European countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands in the detection, prevention, and response against biological threats.

The country has also been enhancing its public health response and preparedness strategies in accordance with the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) International Health Regulations (IHR 2005) with the implementation of the Malaysian Strategy for Emerging Diseases (MySED) Workplan.

The plan sets the basic framework in the country’s preventive and responsive measures towards acute public health risks and global epidemics. (You may take a peek at the full Workplan, HERE)

The Health Ministry also assured that the nation’s health authorities were well trained and qualified to handle cases of deadly infectious diseases.

Related image
Malaysian health authorities working during the toxic pollution incident in Johor in 2019.
(Credit: Malay Mail)

Malaysia’s experienced health professionals have successfully managed a host of viral infections before, like the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (Mers-Cov) epidemic in 2008 as well as infectious diseases that have re-emerged in Malaysia such as polio and rabies in 2019.

The Health Ministry further clarifies that nation’s healthcare systems were also well equipped to handle any possible cases of 2019-nCoV with every state having at least one facility that can quarantine and provide treatment to those infected.


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