The Minister of Health, Dr Adham Baba has completely failed to present the Ministry’s plans that are aligned the National Recovery Plan presented by the Finance and Prime Minister
Members of Parliament listened to the Minister of Health rattle on paragraphs after paragraphs of statistics and listed a litany of measures which have been taken by his Ministry yesterday.
However, there was no qualitative evaluation of these statistics and measures. There was no discussion of the policies success or failures over the past 16 months, no review of how the policy direction needs to be adapted and re-focused to learn from past mistakes.
It was very disappointing that as millions of Malaysians suffer from the prolonged sweeping lockdowns which the Ministry advocated, there was no explanations provided at all as to why the infection rates have continued to rise uncontrollably.
There was no discussion at all, as to its utter and complete failure. There was no proposed new strategies which will be adopted by the Ministry, in place of the highly ineffective sweeping lockdowns which have destroyed livelihood and drowned untold misery on the people.
In the full National Recovery Plan (NRP) Report which was published, the 10-page Chapter 3 dealt with “Strengthening the Healthcare Response to the Pandemic”.
We were somewhat relieved to read that the Government has finally decided to adopt and prioritise what the DAP and Pakatan Harapan have been preaching all this while – that is, “COVID-19 infectivity rates can be reduced by at least 40%, when 80% of close contacts are traced and quarantined within 4 days of isolating the index case. This requires strengthened measures to Find, Trace, Test, Isolate and Support (FTTIS) the infected persons.” (NRP pg25)
The NRP made FTTIS the single most important strategy of the short chapter, with a focus on “mass expansion of testing through Government and community efforts”.
The NRP called for “sufficient testing is important in ensuring that cases are detected and isolated early.” It said the Government will “expand testing efforts via simpler and cheaper testing solutions made available to individuals and employers.”
In addition, the NRP aimed to “trace 75% of close contacts for isolation within 48 hours of a confirmed case – through a technology- led approach leveraging mobile data”, which is not the case currently.
Unfortunately, listening to the clarification speech by the Health Minister felt completely surreal because there was not a single reference to FTTIS as a holistic strategy to contain and mitigate the pandemic going forward.
In an extremely short 2-paragraph section of the speech entitled “meningkatkan keupayaan ujian saringan pengesanan COVID-19 seluruh negara”, Dr Adham Baba merely regurgitated the testing numbers and statistics which have been carried out to date. There was ZERO mention on the testing strategy going forward.
We have repeatedly highlighted that the Health Director-General’s rejection of ‘mass testing’ in favour of ‘targeted testing’ have become the excuse to do only ‘limited testing’.
This has resulted in positivity rates above 10%, and well above the 5% threshold recommended by the World Health Organisation. We would like to re-emphasize that ‘targeted testing’ is NOT ‘limited testing’ and the Health Ministry must aggressively multiply the number of targeted tests carried out daily as part of the FTTIS strategy to contain and mitigate the infection in the community.
If FTTIS strategy is critical to the success of the NRP, then surely, it is the role and responsibility of MoH to flesh out the measure and policies to achieve these goals – such as the number of COVID-19 tests to be carried out proportionate to the positivity rates, how 75% contact tracing could be done within 48 hours and so on. However, absolutely nothing was elaborated by the Health Minister.
Our biggest concern now however, is the fear that the NRP, while well-intended and contains critical strategies like FTTIS, the Health Minister and his Ministry are unaligned and living on another planet. That will ensure another failure by the current Perikatan Nasional (PN) government in battling the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure that the rakyat’s misery will be further compounded.
We call upon the Health Minister to immediately endorse the NRP and present the MoH plans aligned and enforcing the strategies expounded in the NRP to ensure that Malaysia can finally recover from the repeated failures of the PN government in the fight against COVID-19. If he fails to do so, then we repeat our call for Dr Adham Baba to resign or be sacked, and a competent Minister be appointed in his place to deliver the goals of the NRP.
MP for Damansara