Conduct Science-Based Covid-19 Interventions — AMM

It is very disturbing to see that the national disinfection exercise, which was first heavily criticised 15 months ago by local experts, is being repeated.

The Academy of Medicine of Malaysia calls for science-based strategies in combatting Covid-19 and strongly supports Prof Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman’s statement that the resources used on the outdoor disinfection exercise would be better spent elsewhere.

The AMM stands with its members, Prof Dr Adeeba and Prof Dr Lokman Hakim, as well as the Malaysian Public Health Physicians Association in calling for science-based strategies for fighting Covid-19.

The government must prioritise anti-Covid-19 interventions that will help reduce the number of cases, protect our hospitals and intensive care facilities during this two-week total lockdown, and allow our health care professionals and frontliners a respite.

Moreover, ministers are expected to be prudent in their spending to achieve the best possible outcomes with minimal expenditures and diminishing fiscal reserves.

It is therefore very disturbing to see that the national disinfection exercise which was first heavily criticised 15 months ago by local experts is being repeated. In fact, the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) debunked the public sanitisation approach, stating: “Spraying cleaning products or disinfectants in outdoor areas – such as on sidewalks, roads or groundcover – is not necessary, effective or recommended.”

Furthermore, the World Health Organiation (WHO) has alerted to the hazards of this public disinfection exercise as early as May 16, 2020, noting: “Spraying or fogging of certain chemicals such as formaldehyde, chlorine-based agent or quaternary ammonium is not recommended, due to adverse health effects.”

We hope the Ministry of Health would update its “Garis Panduan Pembersihan dan Disinfeksi di Tempat Awam” to reflect this.

In this context of evolving scientific evidence vis-à-vis public health management of Covid-19, there should be a whole-of-government effort to produce ventilation guidelines for all indoor spaces.

Both the CDC and WHO have acknowledged that Covid-19 is an airborne virus. This has led to the creation of ventilation guidelines in many countries, including Singapore.

Many commercial and residential buildings in Malaysia may indeed require updating to meet new standards and we must take this opportunity during the total lockdown to make the necessary improvements so we can exit this pandemic once and for all.

The Academy of Medicine of Malaysia, embracing 11 Colleges and 15 Chapters, is a registered body representing medical specialists in Malaysia.

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