MALAYSIA — Former Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad has slammed the Malaysian government over its confusing plans and measures to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, as he called out its irrationality in dilly-dallying the standard operating procedures (SOPs).
In a Facebook live session with Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on Thursday (28 Jan), Dr Dzulkefly noted that Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham’s announcement on the possibilities of movement control order (MCO) – which was implemented on 12 January – to end on 4 February sparks confusion among the public.
“What are the science behind all of this measures? When Dr Noor Hisham said the continuation of MCO will give a huge impact on the economy, what are the indicators that made him decide so, even before 4 February comes?” he questioned.
Dr Dzulkefly also noticed Dr Noor Hisham’s discomfort when the Health Director-General claimed that “he was just a messenger” and that the “Government has the final say”, alleging that there must be a deeper meaning behind those words.
“Is Health DG being pressured by the ministers to say such things? I can see that he was under a lot of pressure and stress. The current Health Minster and his two deputies are apparently absent, leaving him to fend for himself especially during his daily media conference regarding the development of COVID-19 in this country,” he asserted.
“I may have different opinion with Health DG, but our working relationship were at its best when I was the Health Minister. Today however, it is always Dr Noor Hisham who has to go face the press, which I found to be very unfortunate. Health Minister and his two deputies should own up to this and if they can’t, they should resign!”
Dr Dzulkefly also said that if MCO is no longer necessary, then the Emergency declaration – which was claimed to be an effort to curb the COVID-19 pandemic – should be lifted as well.
“If the MCO is not necessary, then the emergency declaration is even more so,” he expressed, as he recounted his earlier tweets where he claimed that the MCO was implemented to prevent the public from moving freely, while the Emergency ordinance was enacted to prevent check and balance in Parliament.
Dari Kenyataan Akhbar kami, Jelasnya:
"PH berpendirian tindakan PM-8 mengusulkan Darurat, ketika terhakis sokongan majoriti MP, bertujuan menyelamatkan dirinya utk kekal berkuasa".
Memfokus Penambahbaikan Langkah2 PKP adalah PENYELESAIANNYA!
BUKAN Darurat seluruh Malaysia! pic.twitter.com/K5LNIQ63pX
— Dzulkefly Ahmad (@DrDzul) January 12, 2021
During the Facebook live session, Dr Dzulkefly also acknowledged that despite the weaknesses during his time in administration, the ministers have to take charge of everything, and they prepared every answer on issues debated during every cabinet meeting which demonstrated the focus of political leadership at that time.
The former health minister then noted how well the country was doing in flattening the pandemic curve during second wave, but now the people are facing the consequences of the leaders’ negligence, adding that they failed to utilise the first MCO well – which was implemented in March last year – due to political distractions.
“They (the Gov) did not use the duration of lockdown to strengthen our public health; tools, measures, and capacity. Public health preparedness is the benchmark on country’s capability in battling COVID-19 pandemic, together with commitments and focused leadership of the Govt. We all know lockdown is not the solution. It is a last resort, because the after effect of it is too much of a burden for the country to bear,” he stressed.
Echoing what the World Health Organization (WHO) had stated, Dr Dzulkefly said that the Government should not rely on the vaccine as it is not the “miraculous silver bullet” that can solve all the problems in an instantaneous time.
“We must be aware that its going to be quite a long haul. If we start rolling out the vaccine in March, we have to remember, it will take about 18 months to reach between 75 to 80 per cent immunisation of the community. While all of this planning is put into action, what will happen to the country? Live and livelihood of the citizen? The Govt should never let their guard down,” he asserted, adding that the Government’s negligence is possibly the main reason behind the third wave of COVID-19 in the country.
“We must be ahead of the rate of transmission of COVID-19 in community, and from what I can see, the Ministry of Health is unable to do so because of its inability on contact-tracing among COVID-19 positive patients, diagnosis and treatments, and also enforcements due to not enough manpower in the sector. We need at least five times the number of medical officers to help the effort to curb this pandemic. This is what we have been calling for.”
Dr Dzulkefly went on to urge the Government to channel its funds to strengthen public health preparedness, much like Vietnam and Taiwan – both of which received praises from WHO in their COVID-19 handling.
He added that Malaysia has the capabilities to achieve that, but failed to utilise or mobilise the efforts to do so.
“We must be agile and adaptive in considering every measure taken, while listening to experts so that our efforts will be effective,” Dr Dzulkefly concluded.