Tan Sri Lee Kim Yew is of a firm mind that prevention is the best way to slow down the spread of the Covid-19 virus. From the outset of the pandemic in Malaysia, he had already begun to take steps to alleviate the ensuing shortage of protective equipment that he foresees is coming. He first got in touch with Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham to ask him what help he needed. The former was told that ventilators were direly needed for the hospitals. The fast-acting Lee went ahead and sourced for 20 high-spec ventilators from China. “At first they quoted me RM38,000 for the ventilators, to which I said okay, let’s book it,” says Lee. “Then all of a sudden, they raised the price to RM58,000, but I still wanted the ventilators, so I said fine. When I wanted to pay at the time, they told me, ‘Sorry, the ventilators have been sold to others.” I told them, ‘How can this be? You must at least give me two, you can’t deny me that.’ So I bought those two and sent them directly to Sungai Buloh hospital. They proved to be one of the best and most-used ventilators in the country.”
It was during this time that Lee launched the BantuBantu Malaysia initiative to give aid to those affected. To address the shortage, despite logistic challenges due to worldwide lockdown, he and his team worked hard to fly in two separate loads of three-ply surgical face masks, ventilators, goggles and surgical gowns from Xiamen, China—once on March 28 and the other on April 3. They donated a big portion of the items to government and private hospitals as well as several NGOs, while the rest of the masks were sold at cost without profiteering from it. “We wanted to ensure that people will be able to afford the most basic form of protection against this virus—a face mask,” says Lee, who created the slogan, ‘A Mask is a Must’.
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