In this globalised world, with a growing population, there is a need for the country to protect the interest and welfare of its people. A system of a welfare state came wherein the government commits to provide certain levels of employment, income, education, medical, social security and housing for all its citizens. The Welfare state has been identified by various scholars, summarily a welfare state defined as a state that provides for its citizens a wide range of social services.
FEATURES OF A WELFARE STATE
There are many features of a welfare state:
(1)One of the features is that a welfare state emphasises the worth of an individual by helping and assisting him to lead a respectable life in society. A welfare state sees and treats all individuals as equal irrespective of their social and economic class.
(2)Welfare state undertakes a wide-range of social services for the betterment of its citizens. These include steps to abolish illiteracy, unemployment and poverty. Not only that but welfare states will also establish schools, hospitals and other institutions to meet the needs of the people. Relief for unemployment, maternity benefit and other social benefits are also made available in welfare states. In other words, the welfare state includes public provision of basic education, health services and housing.
(3)Welfare state provides financial ease in a sense that there are some areas where individual coverage would be too expensive for society and individuals. According to Barr, a good example of this is long-term care. It is not possible for the individual to know how long and how much he or she will need care when elderly, and individual savings to cover old age would therefore need to be very large.20
In other words, a welfare state is that it provides income security and maintenance. This refers to the cash provided to people such as family allowance, old age pensions, social and public assistance to those who need it.21
(4)Another feature of welfare state is regulatory legislation which attempts to regulate the labour market or behaviour of companies that attempts to protect workers. This also includes having regulations on minimum wage, regulations about health and safety in the workplace.
When a country proclaims itself as a welfare state, what exactly is the ultimate purpose of the government? From what can be gathered from its features, a welfare state is to help and assist individuals for the betterment of their lives by providing financial reliefs and social security. Most contemporary references to the welfare state have been derived from Great Britain’s experience. However, the important questions are does it conform to the features listed above and how effective their welfare system is for it to be made as an exemplary model of a welfare state. One of the main reasons for the gradual development and change of the welfare state is simply because the needs of the society constantly changes and the needs of the individuals in the society will not be successfully met if the governmental system remains stagnant.22
COVID-19 AND THE WELFARE SYSTEM
Now the world is facing a very critical time because of the Covid-19 outbreak. This is where the government plays a crucial role. It depends on the government, on how to prevent the further widespread of the pandemic and at the same time, to protect and maintain the welfare of the people.
Covid-19 has forced businesses to close and unemployment to rise exponentially. The risks it poses has led to a large increase in the generosity of the welfare state. It remains to be seen if the pandemic leads a permanent change.
Governments across the world have responded to the Covid-19 crisis by making welfare states vastly more generous. Historical parallels suggest that this benevolence may endure even as the pandemic recedes. Welfare states will become permanently more generous if citizens believe this pandemic poses an enduring risk to their incomes and if they make common cause with the people who have been worst affected.
Since its first reported positive case early last year, the situation of Covid-19 became worse.23 Therefore, in order to curb the spread of the virus, the government of Malaysia adopted stringent measures such as the implementation of the Movement Control Order (‘MCO’). Malaysia implemented three stages of MCO; the MCO, the Conditional Movement Control Order (‘CMCO’) and the Recovery Movement Control Order (‘RMCO’).24 MCO was implemented on 18 March 2020, restricting the movement of people into or out of an area.25 With declining trends of positive cases, the government implemented CMCO effective from 4 May, allowing a person to travel for work purposes, buying or procuring food, daily necessities and healthcare.26 The RMCO was implemented on 12 May 2020, allowing travel from one place to another within Malaysia for work purposes, except those places which were under the implementation of the ‘Enhanced Movement Control Order’, house visits and gatherings as well as attendance at funerals were also allowed; public transport was allowed to operate at full capacity.27
Early this year, Malaysia has gone back into a tough new lockdown as Covid-19 caseloads have spiked after relatively calm 2020.28 The government reintroduced the MCOs enforced on different States.29
Besides that, Malaysia also adopted the Standard Operating Procedures (‘SOPs’) based on the avoidance of 3Cs; Crowded places, Confined spaces and Close conversation. As well as, the practice of 3Ws; Wash hands, Wear masks, Warn against risks, symptoms, prevention and treatment during the enforcement of the four main legislation through the MCO, EMCO, CMCO and RMCO.30
The UK government has also enforced national lockdown.31 SAGE (scientific advisory group for emergencies) urged the government to call for a third lockdown on 22 December 2020.32 The Prime Minister announced in a live broadcast on 4 January 2021 that the lockdown will take place in England on 5 January. All travel and gatherings were prohibited, except for important purposes, such as essential work, food shopping and daily exercise. Inter-house mixing is only allowed for necessary exercise. All schools and universities still remain closed, with remote learning and examinations cancelled.33
Brunei recorded its first imported case on 9 March 2020, and as of 20 April has detected 138 confirmed cases.34 The Covid-19 cases within Brunei are all imported cases from three different clusters; a mass religious gathering outside Brunei; secondary contacts of those who were infected at the mass religious gathering; and Bruneians returning overseas from vacation or study.35
To contain the situation, Brunei quickly adopted the World Health Organisation (‘WHO’) regulation by adopting various measures such as restrictions of exit and entry to Brunei. Early last year, Brunei imposed a travel ban on infected countries and all unnecessary travel to coronavirus-affected countries was postponed to reduce the possibility of more imported cases. Brunei imposed travel restrictions on the coming and going out of Brunei to contain the situation.36 Bruneian authorities started screening at all the sultanate’s ports of entry. For those individuals arriving from abroad would have to undergo self-isolation for two weeks or face a penalty of imprisonment up to a period of six months, or a fine up to BND10,000, or both.37
Besides that, social distancing and personal hygiene were advocated for all. This is the one-nation approach carried out by the government to break the chain of infection. Hence, mass gatherings and social meetings were prohibited.38 The MoH and the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) cooperated to temporarily close mosques across the country and sanitise several of them; the call to prayer continued over loudspeakers.39 The government also temporarily closed all sport complexes and facilities, cinemas and bowling centres, museums and galleries, youth centres and the Language and Literature Bureau’s library and its branches. Food premises were also not permitted to provide dine-in services.40
A significant public communications strategy was also established, and the government has been more transparent and responsive than usual. Daily press conferences broadcast live on national television and social media channels, led by the Health Minister and is frequently joined by other ministers to address queries from the press and public.41 A transparency has more or less provided assurance to the public and guidance on best practices in handling Covid-19.42 Apart from that, a dedicated 24-hour hotline for public inquiries and a self-screening mobile application have also been established.43
Despite the pandemic, the government has continued with its development programs. These include the promotion of private sector entrepreneurial activity and commercial agriculture, enhanced digital connectivity and physical transportation links, evidently manifest in the new Temburong Bridge.44 Bruneians would not have to go through Malaysia to get from Brunei-Muara to Temburong or vice versa.
State, territorial, tribal, and local governments reacted to the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States with numerous emergency orders, school closures and public meeting places, lockdowns, and other restrictions designed to slow the spread of the virus.45
In an attempt to organise some of their responses, several groups of states have formed compacts.46 47 48 Thousands of US counties begun their own policy responses to the pandemic, resulting in substantial variability even within states.49
The UK government will continue to protect the public by ensuring that local outbreaks are handled rapidly and efficiently and by combating new dangerous variants, both within the UK and at the border. From 8 March, the English will see that restrictions are beginning to be lifted, and the government has provided a route back to a more normal life. The effectiveness of the vaccine programme is one factor, but the public has also risen to suppressing Covid-19: by complying with the law; remaining at home; getting tested when necessary; isolating when needed.50
Malaysia has been placed under major lockdown twice; first when its first reported case last year and second was enforced early of this year. The government adopted stringent national measures to curb the spread of the virus such as the movement control orders, restricting the movement of its people. Overtime, as the caseloads began to decrease, the government eased the lockdown restrictions. Brunei did not opt for major lockdowns; movement of people internally was rather restricted to certain capacity. Brunei also implemented several preventive measures such as temperature check, health screening, public hygiene, social distancing, self-isolation etc.
Let us examine comparatively that how the countries like US, UK, Malaysia and Brunei have taken welfare relief measures in their countries and their manifestation for the welfare state.
THE UNITED STATES
Covid-19 Stimulus Plan
The USD1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed by the US Senates includes a wide variety of measures to support Americans who are now dealing with the economic consequences of the pandemic.51 The legislation, which essentially reflects the relief plan outlined in January by President Joe Biden, provides for another round of cash payments, as well as additional aid for unemployed, hungry, uninsured and at risk of losing their homes. It will also provide a higher tax break for parents.52
Biden and Congressional Democrats argue that another major bill is needed to help both the people in need and the country as a whole.53 President Biden is putting forward an extensive plan for dealing with this epidemic and initiate an whole-of-government Covid-19 response plan that will change the direction of the pandemic by ensuring that they have the requisite supplies and protective equipment, increasing testing to reduce spreading, vaccinating the US population, reopening schools safely, and resolving the health inequalities of Covid-19.54
The US is poised to implement its third big pandemic spending package, a USD1.9 trillion bill, that President Joe Biden has championed as a way to support the struggling Americans. The plan calls for the government to give USD1,400 a person to families earning less than USD200,000 a year and individuals earning less than USD100,000 a year. The amount would be phased out for those earning more than USD100,000. Couples generating less than USD150,000 a year would receive USD2,800 and families with children would be eligible for an additional USD1,400 per dependent.
This is going to be the third stimulus cheque after the pandemic. Unlike the previous two rounds, adult dependents — including college students — would be entitled for payment.55
Unemployment Assistance/ Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance programme is now available to those who cannot work due to health issues that puts them at risk or because their children’s schools were closed, among other factors.56 But previous guidelines issued under the Trump administration left some leeway for states to avoid providing benefits to those who declined to work because of coronavirus safety concerns.57 In particular, if the work offered does not comply with the safety requirements of Covid-19, such as wearing masks, physical distancing or the availability of personal protective equipment.
The program also increases the weekly amount received by employees via state unemployment programmes by USD400.58
The guidance also extends the eligibility to employees who have been laid off or who have had their working hours cut as a direct result of the pandemic, and to school staff working without a contract or guarantee of continued employment who are faced with pay reductions or lay-offs when schools are closed due to the outbreak. And it helps those who leave their jobs to take care of their children to continue to apply for benefits after school is reopened.59
The bill will give about USD19.1 billion to state and local governments to help low-income families pay back rent, rent assistance, and utility bills.
Approximately USD10 billion will be provided to help distressed homeowners pay their mortgages, utilities and property taxes. That will have another USD5 billion to help states and localities help people at risk of homelessness.60
For decades, most developed countries, including the United Kingdom, have provided some kind of monthly child allowance to cover for the cost of raising children. But the US, where worries that social security programmes will discourage jobs, depends on an annual tax credit to compensate for those costs.61 Research has shown that approximately one-third of children, who are predominantly poor, black or Hispanic do not receive full benefit.62
Unfortunately, the pandemic and the economic consequences have highlighted and compounded some of the inequities. And now, the Democrats plan to provide monthly benefits for parents of children under 18 years of age for USD250-300, depending on their age.
The bill also increases how much parents can withdraw from their annual tax bill for childcare costs. Families paying for child care services could obtain some additional assistance. The bill will give USD39 billion to child care providers, some of which would be used to support families struggling to afford the costs.63
Covid-19 Tests and Vaccines64
President Biden called for USD50 billion to upgrade testing centres and another USD$20 billion to create a national vaccine campaign, including setting up community centres, enhancing testing and tracing, reducing supply shortage issues, investing in high-quality treatments, offering paid sick leave to contain the spread of the virus, fixing health inequalities and recruiting new staff to administer the shots.
School Reopening Funds65
The bill provides USD170 billion to schools and colleges to help them re-open, such as purchasing masks and cleaning equipment, improving ventilation systems and building smaller class sizes.
President Biden has made reopening a top priority, referring to reports that show students with remote schooling falling behind. It is also seen as a factor that prevents parents from returning to work.
The bill provides incentives for small businesses as well as more targeted funds: USD25 billion for restaurants and bars; USD15 billion for airlines and another USD8 billion for airports; USD30 billion for transit; USD1.5 billion for Amtrak and USD3 billion for aerospace manufacturing.
Some of the money would be given to severely affected micro businesses with less than 10 employees.67
Funds for Local Governments
Unlike previous stimulus packages, this one offers funding to local governments, many of which face higher expenses and reduced revenues as a result of the economic downturn. The Democratic plan will give at least USD500 million to each state, with additional funds measured by the number of unemployed people.
Paid Leave and Health Insurance Help
The plan reintroduces the provision for employers to give paid sick leave to employees who contract Covid-19, who are exposed to the virus and must quarantine, or who are caring for sick family members. The provision is expected to cost the government, which reimburses the majority of employers for these expenses, approximately USD6 billion. It also seeks to make it possible for more individuals to purchase health insurance separately.68
Senate Democrats had just passed their USD1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package on Saturday 10 March 2021, sending it back to the House for expected approval in the coming days.69 This is such a lengthy process considering there are people in urgent need and depending on the government’s help. For instance, the unemployment aid programs are expiring on 14 March. Therefore, the unemployed people need to wait for the bill to pass in the Chamber, then it would have to go back to the House for a separate vote before it is signed by Biden before the expiration date.70 This legislative package is required promptly to deal with the immediate crisis, since there is no time to waste on saving the lives and livelihoods of the American people.71 The Covid-19 pandemic triggered a serious public health crisis as well as significant economic disruption for every American.
On 9 August, the US passed the five million mark in the cases of Covid-19, which represents slightly more than a quarter of all worldwide cases. That day, more than half of the US states qualified as coronavirus hot spots. The US is likely to go down as the country that was supposedly best prepared to combat a pandemic, but ended up being catastrophically overtaken by the novel coronavirus, sustaining with more serious casualties than any other nation.72
In several respects, the US medical system has performed well and even valiantly, increasing capacity where required, and saving lives where possible.73 However, the lack of response to the pandemic in the US has much more to do with key policy decisions taken, or not taken, in the White House than with the essence of the healthcare system.74 The Trump administration issued its first formal notification of the coronavirus outbreak in China on 3 January. Yet somehow, it took 70 days after that initial notification to treat the coronavirus not as a remote threat or harmless strain of the flu, but as a deadly force that overcame America’s defences and was ready to kill tens of thousands of people. That was more than two months for America to respond but it now stands as a critical time that was squandered.75 The world has been shocked by the US’s disjointed response to Covid-19, resulting in by far the highest case and death count globally.
On 28 January 2020, the federal government officially announced its approach to testing Covid-19. Despite this, the US test effort was sluggish, obscuring the magnitude of the outbreak.76 Many of the 160,000 test kits made in February were found to be faulty and have not been used.77 Academic labs, hospitals and private companies were not permitted to use their own tests until 29 February, when the FDA began granting approvals for them. Initially, there were eligibility limits for the Covid-19 test (based on recent international travel, hospitalisation for respiratory illness, or contact with another person already diagnosed with Covid-19). By 27 February, less than 4,000 experiments had been carried out in the US.78
The pandemic is raging, with rapidly increasing rates of infection and death.79 There is a new strain of the virus that is much more infectious in communities around the country.80 Meanwhile, Americans are waiting for their vaccines, even though the doses are sitting on the shelves. More than 10 months after the pandemic, they still lack the requisite testing capacity and are suffering from shortages of materials, such as basic protective equipment for those on the front lines. Americans of colour are infected and dying of Covid-19 at higher rates due to persistent systemic racism in the healthcare system.81 And the older Americans are also suffering at disproportionate rates.82 83
THE UNITED KINGDOM
The UK government’s response to Covid-19 covers five areas of response: health and social care; other public services and emergency response; support for individuals; support for businesses; and other support.
Health and Social Care Support
The government has taken a number of steps to facilitate the response of Covid-19 to health and social care. This includes steps to increase capacity to treat Covid-19 patients, distribute medical supplies, support adult social care, and research and development for Covid-19 tests, treatments and vaccines.84
Public Services and Emergency Responses
A set of measures to support other public services and to include an emergency response to Covid-19. These include grants to support local government services, education and child services, repatriation and other public services.
In terms of education, it includes support for home schooling by making the expected 200,000 laptops accessible to vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils who are otherwise unable to access online education; funding for increased costs incurred by schools to stay open; and dedicated funding for 14 programmes to provide extra support to vulnerable children most at risk of abuse, violence or exploitation and an adoption support fund.85
The government has implemented a number of measures to help citizens experiencing particular economic or personal difficulties as a result of an outbreak of Covid-19, such as a loss of income. Which includes changes in benefits and statutory sick leave, direct assistance for individuals or families, financial support for self-employed people and deferral of tax payments.86
In view of the number of limitations, including a further national lockdown in England from 5 November to 2 December, a number of economic support initiatives due to end at the end of 2020 have been extended. Mainly intended to enable employers and companies to deal with the economic disruption caused by Covid-19. They include payments to businesses for furloughed employees (Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme), government-backed loan schemes (Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme), cash grants and additional reliefs.87
In terms of communications and public information campaigns, the UK government has financed support to combat Covid-19 worldwide, including research into coronavirus vaccines and to help prevent mass infections in developing countries.88
Many have criticised the response of the UK government as slow and inadequate.89 Initial criticisms include that UK ministers did not take Covid-19 seriously enough in relation to existing evidence or act as quickly as other countries to monitor for infection in order to restrict its spread and/or to implement rapid measures to close schools, businesses and major social events and to control social behaviour; or to put in place stringent enough interventions to avoid people getting into contact with each other at events and in public transport.90
Some say that the UK government responded to the ‘wrong pandemic’, assuming that Covid-19 could be handled like influenza.91 Subsequent criticism highlights the challenges of acquiring personal protective equipment (‘PPE’), testing capability, and an efficient test-trace-and-isolate system, which contribute to a series of systematic failure.92
Some critics blame the UK ministers for adopting a ‘mitigation’ approach, allegedly focused on reducing the rate of infection and the effect of Covid-19 before ‘herd immunity’93 has been created by the population, rather than an elimination strategy to minimise its spread until the vaccine can be developed.94 95 Many describe this approach and delay, exacerbated by insufficient PPE in hospitals and fatal errors in the treatment of care homes, as the biggest contributor to the high number of excess deaths in the UK.96 Death rates were higher among black and other ethnic minority groups who suffered disproportionately as a result of health disparities and unequal access to services.97
Since its first reported positive case early last year, the situation of Covid-19 situation became worse.98 Therefore, in order to curb the spread of the virus, the government of Malaysia adopted stringent measures such as the implementation of the MCO. Malaysia implemented three stages of MCO; the MCO, the CMCO and the RMCO.99 MCO was implemented on 18 March 2020, restricting the movement of people into or out of an area.100 With declining trends of positive cases, the government implemented CMCO effective from 4 May, allowing a person to travel for work purposes, buying or procuring food, daily necessities and healthcare.101 The RMCO was implemented on 12 May 2020, allowing travel from one place to another within Malaysia for work purposes, except those places which were under the implementation of the ‘Enhanced Movement Control Order’, house visits and gatherings as well as attendance at funerals were also allowed, public transport was allowed to operate at full capacity.102
Early of this year, Malaysia has gone back into a tough new lockdown as Covid-19 caseloads have spiked after relatively calm 2020.103 The government reintroduced; the MCO in Pulau Penang, Selangor, Federal Territories (Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan), Melaka, Johor and Sabah; CMCO in Kedah, Perak, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Kelantan and Terengganu; RMCO in Perlis and Sarawak. The Order began from 13 January to 26 January 2021.104
Early March of this year, the government officially phased out of the MCO that was in place since January and reinstated the CMCO for four states in Malaysia-Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Johor and Penang which will be effective from 5 March until 18 March. The remaining states — Melaka, Pahang, Terengganu, Sabah, Putrajaya, Labuan and Perlis are placed under the RMCO.105
Besides that, Malaysia also adopted SOPs based on the avoidance of 3Cs; Crowded places, Confined spaces and Close conversation. As well as, the practice of 3Ws; Wash hands, Wear masks, Warn against risks, symptoms, prevention and treatment during the enforcement of the four main legislation through the MCO, EMCO, CMCO and RMCO.106
Measures to overcome the Economic Downturn
Covid-19 has become a serious threat with profound consequences for the economy and financial markets as a whole. The sudden enforcement of the MCO by the government put various sectors of the economy in jeopardy.107
To minimise the impact of this pandemic, Malaysia has taken several actions to recover the economy. Initially, at the end of February 2020, the former PM of Malaysia announced a financial stimulus package intended to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 based on three major strategies namely; lessen the effect of Covid-19 which aimed to stimulate the travel industry, easing cash flow and providing support to affected individuals; people-based economic growth; and encourage quality investments.108
Besides that, to help revive the economy, the government implemented the National Economic Recovery Plan (PENJANA), and this had borne fruit as the country’s economic sectors have begun to flourish, with more than 15 million workers returning to work and the unemployment rate experiencing a downward trend in May to June.109
On May Day, Malaysian police raided homes and arrested hundreds of undocumented migrants in an attempt to contain the spread of Covid-19. Malaysia is a multicultural and multireligious society and home to more than two million documented migrant workers, between two to four million undocumented migrant workers, and more than 160,000 refugees. These people have limited access to health or social welfare services and face additional barriers, including financial costs. By the new guidelines drew up by the Welfare Department, the government is now in much closer and more productive relationships with local NGOs, which supports marginalised groups by providing medical services, and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which coordinates with the Ministry of Health (‘MoH’) to ensure that all refugees and asylum-seeking communities are included in the government’s national response measures.110
Besides, as what has been said by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, good government should care for its people, this includes when facing the Covid-19 pandemic by providing various forms of assistance for the benefit of its people.111
The government provides fundings to be channelled to patients, particularly those financially affected due to the quarantine procedure.112 For instance; the Covid-19 Fund, funded by the government and private sectors. NGOs and individuals were also welcomed and encouraged to direct their contributions.113 Early this year, the government also introduced a new aid package called Permai to help front-liners and the economy as two-thirds of the country entered its second week of a strict partial lockdown.114
The MoH played a crucial role in ensuring maximum readiness to contain the spread of the virus by arranging various efforts and activities.115 To illustrate, rigorous and routine health screening efforts through thermal scanners are conducted through the advice of MoH. MoH also arranged a disinfection activities in public116 especially in high-risk areas which are to be conducted by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, local authorities, and the DBKL (Kuala Lumpur City Council).117 The subsequent key step taken by the MoH along with the government was to increase the number of hospitals that could treat Covid-19 cases. There was also a group effort between public and private hospitals to accommodate the growing numbers of cases of infection.118
The MoH and Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) established an action coalition to obtain financial aid from corporate companies, government-linked companies (CLCs), and other organisations in Malaysia in the move to fight the outbreak. The funds collected were used to restock medical supplies as well as necessary healthcare items to curb Covid-19.119
Early this year, Malaysia’s Prime Minister announced that Malaysia’s private hospitals have agreed to take on Covid’s patients who are being treated at public healthcare facilities, which are already at breaking point. Moreover, as mentioned before, under the new package, additional financial aid is to be set aside for the MoH, along with funds to hire 3,500 extra healthcare staff to deal with the country’s worsening pandemic.120
Besides that, Malaysia began a vaccination drive last February of this year using the vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech. Malaysia has granted conditional approval for the use of Covid vaccines produced by the UK firm AstraZeneca and Shina’s Sinovac. While, the Russian Sputnik V vaccine is under examination for approval. The vaccination drives work in phases aiming to create 70% immunity in the country.121
Around the world, this pandemic also caused severe impacts on the education systems.122 Educational institutions, schools and higher education institutions have had to close.123 However, educational institutions are encouraged to start home-based learning using online classes and other innovative teaching practices.124 Billions of money was earmarked for Internet Connectivity for Education and Productivity to support e-learning and productivity activities by providing free internet connectivity.125 Students due to sit for SPM are allowed to attend school with strict SOP.126
The MCO has affected Malaysia’s economy. Most companies have their employees working from home, and some workers have had to stop working.127 NGOs also have been actively helping those who are affected by this pandemic by providing food, shelter for the homeless, and have even given out money to help those in need.128
In March 2020, Malaysia’s Prime Minister announced the financial aid package known as PRIHATIN National Aid Package to support micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises struggling to retain their employees. Other than that, policyholders with financial problems and disruption to their income as a result of the MCO and coronavirus outbreak were given a three-month deferment on their policy payment. The government also shows its gratitude to their healthcare employees by increasing their monthly allowance from RM400 to RM600 per month beginning April 2020 until the epidemic ends.129
Billions was earmarked for child care subsidy to support working parents during the CMCO period as well as for the My30 Public Transport Subsidy to reduce the cost of daily public transportation.130
The government provided the wage subsidies last year131 to employees with a monthly income below RM4,000 for nine months132 and early this year, Malaysia’s Prime Minister announced the expansion of a wage subsidy scheme for business owners in the states and regions under the second MCO, while assuring the continuation of a targeted loan moratorium for those who had pay cuts or lost their income due to the pandemic.133 However, wage subsidies are subject to approval.134
The Inland Revenue Board (IRB) took up the initiative of offering tax deductions for cash and item donations to help affected communities in meeting their basic needs and help build their resilience.135
A slew of incentives in the aid package is aimed at providing greater tax relief for Malaysians. Among others, he extended the initiative on an exemption on the sales tax for cars which was introduced last year until the end of 2021. He also extended tax breaks for the purchase of a technology gadget to the end of 2021.136
Since the emergence of Covid-19, the Malaysian government has taken serious comprehensive and nationwide measures set by the WHO.137 Besides that, when the country went back to a new lockdown early this year, the government continued to adhere to the WHO regulations and reinstated some order to be observed by its citizens.
Brunei recorded its first imported case on 9 March, and as of 20 April 2020 has detected 138 confirmed cases.138 The Covid-19 cases within Brunei are all imported cases from three different clusters; a mass religious gathering outside Brunei; secondary contacts of those who were infected at the mass religious gathering; and Bruneians returning overseas from vacation or study.139
To contain the situation, Brunei quickly adopted the WHO regulation by adopting various measures such as restrictions of exit and entry to Brunei. Early last year, Brunei imposed a travel ban on infected countries and all unnecessary travel to coronavirus-affected countries was postponed to reduce the possibility of more imported cases. Brunei imposed travel restrictions on the coming and going out of Brunei to contain the situation.140 Bruneian authorities started screening at all the sultanate’s ports of entry. For those individuals arriving from abroad would have to undergo self-isolation for two weeks or face a penalty of imprisonment up to a period of six months, or a fine up to BND10,000, or both.141
Besides that, social distancing and personal hygiene were advocated for all. This is the one-nation approach carried out by the government to break the chain of infection. Hence, mass gatherings and social meetings were prohibited.142 The MoH and the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) cooperated to temporarily close mosques across the country and sanitise several of them; the call to prayer continued over loudspeakers.143 The government also temporarily closed all sport complexes and facilities, cinemas and bowling centres, museums and galleries, youth centres and the Language and Literature Bureau’s library and its branches. Food premises also not permitted to provide dine-in services.144
A significant public communications strategy was also established, and the government has been more transparent and responsive than usual. Daily press conferences broadcast live on national television and social media channels, led by the Health Minister and is frequently joined by other ministers to address queries from the press and public.145 A transparency has more or less provided assurance to the public and guidance on best practices in handling Covid-19.146 Apart from that, a dedicated 24-hour hotline for public inquiries and a self-screening mobile application have also been established.147
Despite the pandemic, the government has continued with its development programs. These include the promotion of private sector entrepreneurial activity and commercial agriculture, enhanced digital connectivity and physical transportation links, evidently manifest in the new Temburong Bridge.148 Bruneians would not have to go through Malaysia to get from Brunei-Muara to Temburong or vice versa.
The government has set up the Covid-19 Relief Fund to enable the general public to make financial contributions in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic. Brunei Islamic Religious Council (MUIB) also handed over financial assistance through their General Administration fund to micro-businesses and self-employed whose income were affected of Covid-19.149
By virtue of the Infectious Disease Act, Covid-19 testing is mandatory for all individuals with travel or close contact history; pneumonia; present a second time at a health care facility for an influenza-like illness with 14-day period. In addition, random sampling is also conducted in community health centers and among the large foreign worker population.150
Through whole-of-government strategies, key ministries collaborated with Sundry construction and engineering firms151 to build an additional National Virology Laboratory to increase the capacity and accelerate the testing process for Covid-19 in the country.152 As well as construction of the new National Isolation Centre Building to treat and monitor confirmed positive-infected Covid-19 patients.153
On top of that, in January this year, Brunei secured the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine for the 20% of Brunei population. Brunei plans to inoculate at least 70% of the population to achieve herd immunity against Covid-19 by acquiring vaccines. Brunei is still working on considering other vaccines such as Pfizer and Moderna.154 On 9 February 2021, Brunei received its first batch of Sinopharm vaccine donated from the People’s Republic of China and is still reviewing the plans for the distribution of the vaccine in accordance with the recommended priorities.155 The MoH also conducted a Covid-19 Vaccine Intention Survey via Bruhealth app aimed at assessing the acceptability of a potential Covid-19 vaccine among the general adult population in Brunei, and to explore the ideas, concerns and the expectations of the public with respect to vaccination.156
After the first reported case of Covid-19 in Brunei on 9 March, the Bruneian government immediately announced temporary closures of schools and higher education institutions and imposed social distancing measures. Schools and higher education institutions continue to conduct online learning and teaching. Government also provides bandwidth and data to enable continuous learning. In support of online learning, the public is welcome to donate computers, laptops and tablets (new or used). Program Rancangan Pembelajaran di Rumah for Year 6 Students through Brunei Radio Television (RTB) Aneka and RTB GO.157
The government pays a monthly special allowance of BND400, especially to those working in the hospital, National Isolation Centre and quarantine centres specifically for doctors, nurses, paramedics, ambulance drivers, volunteers, hospital cleaners, security guards and all staff under the MoH.158
The government agreed on the six months deferment of principal repayments of financing or loan for tourism, hospitality, event management, restaurant and cafes, air transport.159
The government is also trying to protect jobs through the introduction of various measures including paying 25% salary subsidies for Bruneian employees, along with Employees Trust Fund (‘TAP’) and full Supplemental Contributory Pensions (‘SCP’) contributions for self-employed individuals for a period of six months.160
Other measures taken by the government are such as providing online training free-of-charge through Coursera; contract extension for i-Ready apprentices for a period of six months;161 extending the i-Ready Apprenticeship Program to Level 5 Diploma; business matching by Darussalam Enterprise (DARe) for micro, small and medium enterprises (‘MSMEs’) to onboard e-commerce platforms to help market their services/products online more effectively to mitigate challenges in offline retail.162
The government announced the six months deferment on TAP and SCP, for MSMEs with employees earning less than BND1,500. MSMEs need to apply for the deferment and are to repay the contributions within a year after the final month of deferment. The government will provide the full SCP contribution for the self-employed. The self-employed SCP scheme carries a survivorship benefit which includes a BND400 monthly payout to dependents for up to 15 years — in addition to receiving the SCP already paid up — if the participant passes away before 60-years-old. There are also temporary exemptions of customs and excise duties on personal hygiene products to help retailers and consumers manage prices amidst increasing demand.163
Brunei compares favourably with other countries to have implemented a successful response operation.164 With Brunei’s small population and centralised government, this enabled rapid implementation of an enhanced surveillance mechanism and mass testing program.165 Since May 2020, Brunei’s caseloads have stayed low indicating the effectiveness of the pandemic measures and policies. Hence, Brunei carried out its de-escalation plan in stages based on the MoH’s monitoring of the Covid-19 epidemic situation in the country, regional and international levels. This plan aimed to lift the Covid-19 restrictions by introducing a gradual reduction in social distancing measures.166
Despite the reduction in social distancing measures, schools, educational institutions, premises, other social facilities, public as well as any events or activities held must continue to adhere to any directives issued by the government especially the social distancing and personal hygiene and continue to implement the SOPs which include daily body temperature checks and the use of QR Code scans.167
The welfare state has played a profound role in its many varieties at least since the second world war.168 And over time, we can see that the welfare state is an important institution that has been gradually developed and has also changed over time and played a crucial role in emergent situations like global pandemic.
Malaysia as a welfare state has achieved a considerable level of development in regards to education, health, housing, employment, and public infrastructure. Today Brunei is, in many respects behaved as a modern welfare state though it is a monarchical state with flavor of modern welfare schemes. It can be seen that how it behaved and controlled Covid-19 pandemic effectively as a welfare state. Brunei was relatively well prepared for a pandemic like Covid-19.
UK has suffered one of the highest excess-deaths ratio in the world. The UK’s effort/welfare system during Covid-19 catastrophes cannot be said to be comparable as to what is done in Brunei and somewhat in Malaysia. Therefore, we believe that as much as the UK took pride in their welfare system, it is not the best even though they are a developed country. This is also mainly based on our examination. It is evident that both Brunei Darussalam and Malaysia, being still developing countries, provides a better set of welfare schemes in mater health safeguard compared to Great Britain and maybe even the US.
With the current world situation facing a global pandemic has led to many repercussions and pressures. This is evident in the health services, as well as imposing constraints on the country’s economy. Nevertheless, the Covid-19 crisis has made welfare states vastly more generous than its pre-Covid’s welfare. Underpinning all these considerations is a vision of a welfare state which provides equal autonomy for all to pursue their life goals, in solidarity with others. That means developing a new progressive narrative which can consolidate a social coalition behind the new vision.
The Coronavirus Crisis and the Welfare State: A Comparative Study With Reference to Us, Uk Malaysia and Brunei  2 ILJA iii