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Covid QEHThe Year of the Pandemic has been a brutal one, exacting a heavy toll on lives, personal health, and the economy. We end 2020 with a record high 24-hour increase of 2,525 Covid-19 new cases, pushing up active cases to nearly 24,000.

In total, Covid-19 has killed 471 people and infected 113,010 in Malaysia throughout 2020. A vaccine cannot come soon enough in 2021.

I am fortunate that my family and I have largely escaped the financial impact of the coronavirus, even as we have heard of job losses hitting our neighbours. None of us also got infected with Covid-19, not that we know of anyway (can’t be certain until we take an antibody test).

While 2020 has upended the lives of most Malaysians, particularly the low-income and daily wage earners, this year has produced some good things for me. Even though revenue was slower for CodeBlue, our views and readership went through the roof during the pandemic. We have hit more than 5.3 million views and 2.7 million visitors in less than two years after I co-founded CodeBlue in early 2019.

Reporting health care news during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic really took me out of my comfort zone. I was fortunate to have a good team who went above and beyond to report what was really happening on the ground, behind the official statistics and press statements, as frontliners struggled to cope with the burden of a relentless virus, particularly in Sabah.

Despite a deadly virus, the authorities still found the time to investigate me under the Official Secrets Act and the Penal Code for articles I wrote in March 2020 about the declassified findings of an independent inquiry into the 2016 fire at Sultanah Aminah Hospital in Johor Baru, Johor, that killed six patients.

Until today, no one has been held accountable for the worst hospital fire in Malaysian history, even though the independent inquiry had pinpointed hospital management and staff’s lack of preparedness as one of the underlying causes of the six fatalities. The probe led by former Court of Appeal judge Mohd Hishamudin Yunus also found that the government hospital operated for years without a fire certificate. Through two different administrations, Pakatan Harapan and Perikatan Nasional, the investigating committee’s report on a hospital fire that happened in a third administration, Barisan Nasional, remains secret.

Managing a media startup that is widely read by the medical fraternity in both the private and public sectors has taught me management skills and also how to deal with people in power who don’t necessarily like the spotlight.

Sometimes I yield; sometimes I don’t. I ensure that CodeBlue is non-partisan – we have always held the government of the day to account ever since we were born during Pakatan Harapan’s time. CodeBlue is not necessarily anti-government – we have supported the government on various issues, including the Covid-19 vaccination programme. All we aim to do is to promote health as a human right; and this can only happen when people are aware of issues and problems that affect their personal health, so that they can advocate for better health policies.

On a personal note, I believe I’ve grown as a person this year. I think I’m much more confident now and less tolerant of pretentiousness. I’m not easily impressed. I am also learning to let go and to resist the compulsion to control everything around me. I guess this is part of being a good manager.

May 2021 bring us much better prospects and a bright hope for the future.