M'sians should take heed of Covid-19 tsunami in India, avoid similar situation — Health D-G

Photo by Sam Fong/The Edge

Photo by Sam Fong/The Edge

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PUTRAJAYA (May 8): Malaysians have been advised to take heed of the Covid-19 tsunami in India, and avoid a similar situation from occurring here, by strictly complying with the standard operating procedures (SOP) set by the government.

Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the sharp increase in the number of cases in India came following the government's decision to loosen movement restrictions on March 7, after bringing the pandemic under control.

“Following the announcement, many in the country did not comply with the SOP when the flexibility was given. Gatherings have taken place at beaches, at religious ceremonies and at weddings.

"Besides that, India has also held five state elections. They held a campaign involving 200,000 individuals without the use of face masks, nor any physical distancing, so the infection began spreading," he said at the Covid-19 development press conference here today.

India has recorded a total of 21.49 million cases so far, with 1.57 million new cases in just the past week.

Meanwhile, Dr Noor Hisham pointed out how important it was for Malaysia to gazette the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021 in January, which provided that no elections should be held during the emergency period.

Dr Noor Hisham said that with the Emergency Ordinance in place, three by-elections (PRK) were not held, namely in Batu Sapi, Bugaya and Gerik, while the Sarawak State Election (PRN) was also put on hold.

“If the by-elections and Sarawak PRN were to be held, of course, there would be campaign rallies. So this is the government’s rationale in gazetting the Emergency Ordinance," he said.

He said that if the Sarawak PRN was held, any spread of new Covid-19 cases in rural areas would be a logistical nightmare for Ministry of Health (MoH) staff.

"We (MoH) do not have the capacity to reach out to such remote areas," he said.

Under the Emergency Ordinance, the General Election (GE), as well as state and by-elections, shall not be held during the emergency period until Aug 1.