My presentation explores the Indonesian and Malaysian government’s public health communication in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 is inherently a social disease with exposure, transmission, care and outcomes are mediated by social interaction and hence language. The key to effective pandemic response is, therefore, not only skilful planning of technical and biomedical solutions at policy level, but also the ability to communicate consistent messages in an empathetic manner to the public. I compare two cases between Indonesia and Malaysia because as geographically neighbouring countries, their national languages, Bahasa Indonesia and Malay, are rooted from one origin language, i.e. Bahasa Melayu. I employ a critical discourse analysis in identifying discursive practices, and key themes found in speeches and public statements made by relevant political leaders and policy documents in both countries. My presentation highlights the importance of clear and consistent communication in containing the pandemic and building community resilience. As my study reveals the contrary, inconsistent public health communication leads to public confusion and consequently poor pandemic management.
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