Fighting COVID-19 Pandemic: Evaluation of the Government Crisis Communication by Prime Minister of Malaysia

Malaysia recorded the first case of COVID-19 on the 25th January 2020 and is going through the third wave of this pandemic crisis. By 28th April 2021, the cumulative numbers reported confirmed cases of COVID-19 had reached 401,593 cases including 1,477 deaths. When the Muhyiddin’s Government took over the control of Malaysia, Malaysia was recorded a significant increase in the Covid-19 infections cases caused by the Tabligh cluster. The instance actions were taken by Muhyiddin to declare a nation’s lock-down with the first enforcement of Movement Control Order (MCO 1.0) on 18th March 2020. Lock-down measures proven as a useful method to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus , as China had successfully controlled the pandemic with the lock-down measures. The decisive actions by Muhyiddin were fast and it effectively reduced the number of infections during the early stages. Along with the decision to lock-down the whole nation, he knew that the decision was a tough call, which involved an economic trade-off in costs. Leaders in crisis communication were expected to reduce the negative emotions such as fear and panic among the public. An effective crisis narrative that channeled the public negative emotions was viable during the crisis.

Key leaders such as the Prime Minister were responsible for governing effective crisis communication by giving quick responses on the pandemic situation and ensuring the citizens received and acted on the information provided by the government and other agencies. However, there is no “one size fits all” communication approach and this study attempted to evaluate the crisis communication approaches by the Prime Minister during the pandemic. This study conducted a thematic analysis of the Malaysian Prime Minister’s crisis communication regarding the COVID-19 pandemic via the Prime Minister Office’s Official Website. The Prime Minister’s crisis communication was collected from public speeches and press statements released during March 2020 and June 2021. Hence, in crisis situation importance of crisis communication by key leaders to inspire public confidence and suggest future approaches to government crisis communication for social well-being is important.

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