KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 9 — Public health expert and former Health director-general Dr Mohamad Taha Arif — who was involved in combating the Nipah and SARS outbreaks in Malaysia — has been appointed a member of the 2021 Emergency Independent Special Committee.
The purpose of this independent committee, led by former Chief Justice Arifin Zakaria, is to advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on the Emergency proclamation in Malaysia, including determining if the Emergency could be lifted ahead of the scheduled ending date of August 1, should the Covid-19 epidemic ease by then.
Dr Taha served as the Health director-general from 2001 till 2005. The Sarawakian was formerly the director of the disease control division of the Ministry of Health (MOH), as well as a former director of the Institute of Medical Research (IMR).
According to the Malaysian Medical Gazette, Dr Taha, who was interested in disease control since the early days of his career, had been actively involved on the ground during the infectious disease outbreaks of the Nipah virus; SARS; cholera; typhoid; dengue; malaria; and hand, foot and mouth disease. Dr Taha had also chaired the Polio National Eradication Committee.
The current Health director-general leading the Covid-19 public health response, Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, is a senior consultant surgeon, whose expertise is in breast and endocrine cancers.
Besides Dr Taha, another public health expert — Dr Andrew Kiyu, also a Sarawakian — has been appointed to the independent committee. Dr Kiyu, a fellow of the American College of Epidemiology, has over 40 years of experience in public health and epidemiology. He previously served as the deputy director of public health in Sarawak and as the Sarawak state health director.
Dr Kiyu currently serves as professor of public health at University Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS), while Dr Taha has retired as professor in public health medicine from the same university.
The government also appointed Dr Yahya Awang as a member of the 19-member Emergency Committee. Dr Yahya is a cardiothoracic surgeon, and was also the founder of the National Heart Institute (IJN) and pioneered cardiac surgery in Malaysia.
Meanwhile, Dzulkefly Ahmad, former health minister under the Pakatan Harapan government, is also a member of the Emergency Committee. He currently chairs the Selangor Task Force Covid-19 (STFC) and the Pakatan Harapan Immunisation Task Force. Dzulkefly is a toxicologist by training.
Besides these health experts, 15 other individuals have been appointed to the advisory panel from various fields, including DAP’s Seremban MP Anthony Loke and PKR’s Kulim-Bandar Bharu MP Saifuddin Nasution Ismail.