Malaysia has been placed among the top 20 countries which have done well in managing the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent study in Australia.
Lowy Institute, a policy research think tank based in Sydney, compared publicly available and comparable data on the virus from some 100 countries, with Malaysia ranked 16th ahead of Finland, Norway and South Korea, the latter of which had earned praise for battling the virus at the initial stage.
There was no prize for guessing which country topped the list.
New Zealand, which scored 94.4%, has earned global praise for its handling of the pandemic, with only 25 deaths and fewer than 2,000 confirmed cases in a population of five million.
Among the Southeast Asian nations, Malaysia scored 71% while Singapore ranked three places above with 74.9%.
Vietnam came out top in the region and second globally, behind New Zealand with a score of 90.8%.
Another Asean country which made it to the top five was Thailand, ranked fourth in the world with a score of 84.2%.
Indonesia, which was placed at the bottom half of the list, scored a lowly 24.7%, joining other large countries.
Brazil was ranked the worst at 4.3%.
The US, ranked at number 94, appeared to be the only developed nation placed in the bottom 10 of the list, among countries such as Panama, Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico and Iran.
China, where the deadly pandemic was first detected, was excluded from the ranking due to a lack of publicly available data on testing.
The countries were evaluated based on the number of cases, deaths, cases per million people, deaths per million people, confirmed cases as a proportion of tests, and tests per thousand people.
Lowy Institute however said no single country could be regarded as the winner during the 36-weeks exercise.
“Some countries have managed the pandemic better than others – but most countries outcompeted each other only by degrees of underperformance. The severity of the pandemic in many countries has also changed significantly over time, with infections surging again in many places that had apparent success in suppressing initial outbreaks,” the study said.
It said while rich countries had more resources to fight the pandemic, many developing countries were able to cope with the initial outbreak better than advanced nations. However, these developing countries lost their lead by the end of 2020 with a resurgence in infections.
Malaysia’s Covid-19 infections took a turn for the worse in the aftermath of the Sabah election in September last year, triggering a third wave which forced health officials to warn of a crisis in public hospitals.
Earlier this month, Putrajaya brought back the movement control order in large parts of the country, coupled with a state of emergency aimed at giving authorities wider powers to fight the pandemic which has claimed more than 700 lives.
Lowy Institute said governments in developing countries had a greater sense of urgency to put in place preventative measures.
It said technology is not a critical factor in taking preventive measures, such as lockdowns and SOPs such as face masks and temperature checks.
“The relatively ‘low-tech’ nature of the health measures used to mitigate the spread of the virus to date, including large-scale lockdowns, may have created a more level playing field between developed and developing countries in the management of Covid-19,” it added.