KUALA LUMPUR, April 27 – Former Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad continues to see contact tracing as a vital tool to monitor any new Covid-19 outbreaks in an endemic phase, though he thinks the MySejahtera app has not fully served that purpose.
MySejahtera was meant to be used by federal health authorities for tracking close contacts of positive Covid-19 cases by requiring people to use the app to scan QR codes at public premises.
Speaking at an ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute webinar on “Malaysia since the Sheraton Move: Pandemic, Politics, Popularity” today, Dzulkefly said the country should not let its guard down in anticipation of “an unforgiving virus” that is “always mutating to a more virulent one”.
“The only good thing is there was a mistake in the evolution (of SARS-CoV-2) that Omicron is less virulent than the Delta variant, but you never know what is coming. Already, we have this recombinant and others coming in, so we need contact tracing onboard, on standby, which could be immediately triggered, alerted, and put in place, and that is something we do not compromise because that is part of FTTIS (find, test, trace, isolate, support) should there be an epidemic after an endemic phase.
“So, we must have that, we cannot compromise on that. I’m not in agreement with those who say we can do away with contact tracing because it’s such a shame that we have had this platform all this while – although it has not served its purpose, I must say, very well,” Dzulkefly said.
“Forgive me for saying that, but our Selangkah (Selangor Covid-19 app) were of course earlier and we had tried to play our part – we were complementing and supplementing the work of MOH (Ministry of Health) at the federal level – but somehow, we were not able to… because of for whatever reason, it is now, they say the rest is history.”
Dzulkefly said MySejahtera, or any other platform, can serve as a contact tracing platform, which he described as a way to strengthen non-pharmaceutical measures having learned the “very hard ways” of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“So, I must say that the Ministry of Health or the government have got to really come clean on this. I’m not here to make any more presumptions of whatever… I think Minister KJ (Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin) may have been in a difficult situation being a victim of whatever circumstances – I don’t know if that’s the right word.
“But he must come clean to really iron out and make do and make best with whatever that has come to light, and it’s very unfortunate, all those things.
“Had it not been the legal rambling of the shareholders, you might not even know what huge quantum of money that would change hands from the government to the private party which started off as CSR (corporate social responsibility),” Dzulkefly said.
MySejahtera has been engulfed in controversy after a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report raised on March 24 the lack of a contract between the government and app developer KPISoft Malaysia Sdn Bhd (now Entomo Malaysia Sdn Bhd), and Cabinet’s approval of direct negotiations for a new company, MySJ Sdn Bhd, for the app.
Although the government claims ownership over the huge MySejahtera database, Khairy said MySJ can access the MySejahtera database to resolve user issues, even though the government has yet to formalise a contract with the private company for the Covid-19 app.
Khairy previously told Utusan Malaysia that the government would not drop MySejahtera, maintaining that the app with at least 38 million registered users was still useful for electronic health records post-pandemic.