As World Struggles to Contain COVID-19, Malaysia Offers Bold Solutions

The coronavirus pandemic may have started in China, but its effects are being felt the world over. Authorities struggling to contain the virus have proposed a variety of solutions aimed at preventing its spread. But while many governments have confined citizens to their homes during the crisis, few have offered guidance on how to behave in quarantine.

Malaysia, which has seen the largest number of coronavirus cases in Southeast Asia, has emerged as a world leader when it comes to establishing guidelines for how citizens can cope with the stress of pandemic-related confinement. The Ministry for Women, Family, and Community Development posted a series of public service announcements on social media advising citizens on how to survive and thrive during the country's partial lockdown.

The posts, using the hashtag #WomenPreventCOVID19, offered a series of sensible suggestions for how to cope with the unique challenges of social distancing and isolation. As the hashtag suggests, the advice was primarily aimed at citizens who identify as female.

Malaysia suggested, for example, that women dress up and wear makeup to maintain a sense of normalcy while working from home. Women with husbands were advised to refrain from nagging or being "sarcastic" while asking for help with household chores. It was recommended that women lighten the mood by mimicking the high-pitched voice of Doraemon, an anime cat robot popular in the region.

Regrettably, the Malaysian government was widely ridiculed for its bold, innovative response to the once-in-a-lifetime global crisis. As the ministry explained on Tuesday in a forced apology, the suggestions were merely aimed at "maintaining positive relationships among family members during the period they are working from home."

Who can argue with that? President Donald J. Trump should at least consider how the Malaysian model might inform the United States' response to the pandemic. To do otherwise would be an abdication of leadership.