Malaysia's fight against Covid-19 continues despite Muhyiddin's resignation

There are concerns that the political crisis will affect the efforts to bring down surging infections and ramp up vaccinations.
There are concerns that the political crisis will affect the efforts to bring down surging infections and ramp up vaccinations.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

KUALA LUMPUR - Outgoing Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has assured Malaysians that efforts to fight the Covid-19 pandemic will continue and that they will be taken care of despite him and the Cabinet resigning on Monday (Aug 16).

In a national televised address, Tan Sri Muhyiddin said that the bureaucracy will continue normally and herd immunity is still achievable if the nationwide Covid-19 immunisation programme runs uninterrupted.

"You don't have to worry. My Cabinet has ordered more than enough vaccines for all of you, and if the vaccination programme goes well, all of you will get vaccinated by the end of October, God willing," he said, hours after tendering his resignation to the King, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah.

Mr Muhyiddin will act as caretaker prime minister until a new premier is appointed. Currently, there appears to be no clear candidate.

"I hope a new government can be formed immediately so that the administration of this country is not disrupted. The next two months are crucial as we expect to achieve herd immunity in October," he added.

On Monday, Malaysia reported 19,740 new Covid-19 cases, a slight dip from Sunday's 20,546, and 274 more deaths. There are more than 1.42 million infections in total, with over 12,700 deaths.

As at Aug 15, 72.9 per cent of the adult population have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, while 45.9 per cent of the adult population have received both doses.

There are concerns that the political crisis will affect efforts to bring down surging infections and ramp up vaccinations.

For instance, Mr Khairy Jamaluddin, who was the coordinating minister for inoculations, was one of the Cabinet members who resigned on Monday and was largely viewed as spearheading one of the world's fastest vaccination roll-outs.

Chief Secretary to the Government Mohammad Zuki Ali, however, said the day-to-day administration of the civil service will not be disrupted as cooperation between government agencies is solid.

"I assure you that the civil service has always given its full commitment in ensuring that the government's delivery system is not compromised. The day-to-day administration will continue to be led by the secretaries-general of the ministries and department heads as usual," he said in a statement. "Security personnel, including the police and the armed forces, remain on standby to ensure peace and public order."

According to legal experts, a caretaker government is a temporary or ad hoc administration that performs some nominal governmental functions until a regular government is either elected or, in Malaysia's case, formed.

It should only maintain the status quo and has no mandate to introduce new policies, undertake new initiatives or propose new legislation.

Human rights and constitutional lawyer Andrew Khoo said Mr Muhyiddin's resignation and appointment as caretaker leader would not disrupt existing policies and strategies for handling the pandemic.

"The civil service will continue to administer existing policies. So there should be no dent or pause in Malaysia's efforts to contain the Covid-19 pandemic," he told The Straits Times.

Constitutional lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar also said the caretaker government's policy position on the pandemic remains as before.

"It could continue with the efforts that are currently under way. This is subject, however, to it not making any major commitments, financial or otherwise. This would be for the incoming government," he told The Straits Times.