MOH Won’t Share Raw Covid Data Due To Past ‘Incidents’

MOH only shares granular Covid-19 data with the police for home quarantine monitoring purposes.

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 4 — The federal Ministry of Health (MOH) refuses to provide other parties, including state governments, access to raw Covid-19 data because of previous “unwanted” incidents.

Health Minister Dr Adham Baba — in his November 3 parliament written reply to his predecessor and Kuala Selangor MP Dzulkefly Ahmad — however did not elaborate on these few past unwanted incidents related to the management of raw data that led to MOH’s reluctance to share information.

“This is to avoid the risk of contradictory or variable interpretations of data by various agencies that could possibly lead to public panic because of the information delivered,” Dr Adham said in his Dewan Rakyat reply.

Dzulkefly, who leads Selangor’s Covid-19 task force (STFC), had asked Dr Adham about MOH’s preparedness to share inter-district data during the third wave of the Covid-19 epidemic in Malaysia, especially in Selangor, like previous data sharing between MOH, the National Security Council (NSC), and the Selangor State Operations Centre.

Dr Adham also told Dzulkefly that MOH has only shared granular Covid-19 data with the police under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342), specifically for the monitoring of individuals given a home surveillance order.

“However, this special approval and the data shared for this purpose can only be used throughout the effective period of this particular decentralisation of power. This takes into account that physical medical records belong to MOH, while the information contained within belongs to the patient.

“Therefore, all parties involved with the handling and usage of patients’ medical records are responsible for the confidentiality of the related documents and must follow the related laws, circulars, and instructions.”

The health minister added that raw data obtained from the field must undergo a verification process to ensure the accuracy and authenticity of the reported data.

“Each patient is given a case number to enable data analysis and to protect confidentiality. This entire process must be done carefully and accurately in a short period of time to ensure that the right information is delivered to the community, and to help MOH and government machinery as a whole to make important decisions to curb the Covid-19 epidemic,” Dr Adham said.

Malaysiakini reported last month that STFC no longer received Covid-19 granular data from MOH since the first week of October, just as coronavirus cases began surging throughout the country, particularly in Sabah. The federal government also slapped a Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) on Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya since October 14, which is scheduled to end on November 9, amid rising Covid-19 cases in the Klang Valley.

CodeBlue understands that the lack of access to official data, like the specific location of reported Covid-19 cases, has prevented the Selangor state government from running their own testing as state authorities cannot map risk areas. The federal MOH is largely in charge of Covid-19 screening, but it has not made testing more available to the general public despite soaring coronavirus infections since October as it maintains on testing only close contacts of confirmed cases.

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, who publishes Malaysia’s daily Covid-19 reports, merely reveals the number of daily cases reported according to state breakdown and brief details on where infections were detected, ie: whether they were part of clusters or found in screenings. Even the districts where Covid-19 cases are reported are not named, except where clusters are found.

MOH’s daily written Covid-19 reports also do not contain information on weekly testing rates nationwide or according to state or district, unlike Singapore that states the average daily of swabs tested over the past week.

Medical practitioners have also previously called for access to clinical data, like symptoms or the condition of Covid-19 patients in Malaysia. MOH does not publish basic information on Covid-19 cases in the country either, like their age, gender, and ethnicity.

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