COVID-19 severity (infection rate and mortality rate) can be connected to the social, economic, and environmental factors. However, the knowledge for this subject has not been well-established in Malaysia. Therefore, this study aims to examine the factors affecting the COVID-19 pandemic situation in Malaysia. It investigates three major factors (social, economy and environment). Thirteen States and two Federal Territories of Malaysia were considered; and the data for the attributes of each major factor are derived from the official reports of Department of Statistics Malaysia. Meanwhile, the infection rate and mortality rate of COVID-19 cases were obtained from the Ministry of Health Malaysia. The data for these COVID-19 outcome variables were covered between January 19, 2020 and December 31, 2021. Using a non-parametric statistical approach (Kendall’s Tau-b Correlation), the social, economic and environmental factors that contribute to the COVID-19 infection rate and mortality rate in Malaysia are identified. First, for social factors the study found that the percentage of non-citizen, average household income and number of students per teacher has positive relationship with COVID-19 infection rate and mortality rate. Second, in terms of economic factor, the percentage of primary industry has a negative relationship with COVID-19 infection rate and mortality rate. Third, in the matter of environmental factor, it is noticed that the population density and percentage of high-rise residential buildings are positively related to the COVID-19 infection rate. Learning from these research findings, the study noticed that COVID-19 is more severe in urban areas due to higher population density, high concentration of high-rise residential buildings, higher student-to-teacher ratio, higher household income and a wider outreach of broadband penetration. Place-based approaches and together with equitable and inclusive development can be the way forward to long-term resilience and sustainable way to address COVID-19 or future emergency outbreak of similar magnitude.
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