KUALA LUMPUR, March 16 — The Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) today criticised the lackadaisical attitude of certain government ministries in handling the Covid-19 pandemic that has hit nearly 500 cases in Malaysia.
The doctors’ group said while the Ministry of Health (MOH) and public health workers have been working round-the-clock with daily updates, “the other ministries seem to be totally ignorant of their roles in managing this crisis.”
“We have noticed certain ministries have ignored the advice given by the prime minister and continue to hold large gatherings,” MMA president Dr N. Ganabaskaran said in a statement.
The Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry was widely condemned online after it announced a Malaysia Travel Fair 2020 at the World Trade Centre here from March 13 to 15 that it hoped to attract 100,000 visitors.
MMA said the National Disaster Management Agency (Nadma) did not seem to take the novel coronavirus seriously, leaving the outbreak to the Ministry of Health (MOH) instead.
“It must be noted that the Ministry of Health has limited powers when it comes to enforcement,” Dr Ganabaskaran said.
“Nadma should work and assist the ministry of health in mobilising screening of the 14,500 Malaysian participants, even if it is to mobilise the army,” he added, referring to the attendees of the recent tabligh gathering at the Sri Petaling mosque here that has been linked to at least 243 Covid-19 infections so far.
MMA also told the Communications and Multimedia Ministry to be at the forefront in public health messaging to prevent panic.
The Human Resources Ministry, said the doctors’ group, should also direct employees in certain sectors to work from home, with those suffering from upper respiratory infections to get three to four days’ medical leave and strict orders to rest at home.
The Education Ministry should order schools and universities to shut down or allow webinars for lecturers, said Dr Ganabaskaran.
Amid an acute shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers, especially in the private sector, the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry should ensure that Malaysians have sufficient supply, said MMA.
“Many other countries have ordered their local manufacturers to support the local market first, while we were informed a decision was made but not implemented.”
MMA urged MOH to decentralise and empower local health authorities to work closely with private general practitioners (GPs) in Covid-19 surveillance.
“The participating GPs should be retrained in managing this new disease and also making sure they have sufficient PPEs so that the doctors and their staff are protected.”
Dr Ganabaskaran also told religious bodies to ensure any official decisions are enforced during the outbreak, before it escalates to a national emergency with a lockdown on cities.
“There must only be one voice and one direction from the top with the political will to decree what will keep Malaysians and their families safe and healthy as we fight this together. Speed is essential in this fight against Covid-19 and every Malaysian’s life matters,” he said.
“The Covid-19 containment is a collective responsibility of all the ministries and ministers, not just the Ministry of Health. We urge all the newly minted ministers to show some level of urgency and seriousness in handling this national issue.”