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DAPSY's 8 Points Formula to combat SARS in Malaysia
 


Press Conference Statement
by Loke Siew Fook

(Petaling Jaya, Friday): The announcement by Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Mohamed Taha Arif of six more suspected cases of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) have been reported in the country, bringing the cumulative number of cases to 65 as of yesterday April 3, 2003 is a worrying sign. This was in sharp contrast with what the Health D-G announced just 3 days ago that Malaysia is SARS-free.

Globally, there are no signs that this killer syndrome is under control when the death toll is still climbing and the number of cases is increasing especially in the Greater China region. Below is the latest figure of cumulative cases released by the World Health Organization:

 

Cumulative Number of Reported Cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)

 

From: 1 Nov 20021 To: 3 Apr 2003, 17:00 GMT+2

Country

Cumulative number of case(s)

Number of deaths

Local chain(s) of transmission2

Australia

 1

 0

 None

Belgium

 1

 0

 None

Brazil

1

0

 None

Canada

 62

 6

 Yes

China

 1190

 46

 Yes

China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region

 734

 17*

 Yes

China, Taiwan

 14

 0

 Yes

France

 3

 0

 None

Germany

 5

 0

 None

Italy

 3

 0

 None

Republic of Ireland

 1

 0

 None

Romania

 1

 0

 None

Singapore

 98

 4

 Yes

Switzerland

 2

 0

 None

Thailand

 7

 2

 None

United Kingdom

 3

 0

 None

United States

 85

 0

 Being determined

Viet Nam

 59

 4

 Yes

Total

2270

79

 

Although the government has set up a National Committee on SARS with the co-operation of several ministries and agencies to inform members of the public on SARS to monitor the situation in the country, the plans of action are not comprehensive enough and are not adequate if the outbreak unfortunately spreads in the country. DAPSY is not creating panic among the public about the danger of SARS but the government must do everything possible to prepare Malaysians to counter the disease.

DAPSY is proposing an 8-points formula to the government to be immediately implemented to combat SARS from spreading in Malaysia as well as to cushion the economic effects from the deadly disease as below;

1) Effective dissemination of information about SARS to all sections of the population through national televisions.

The Information Ministry must immediately produce television programs to disseminate A-Z information about SARS and broadcast it through national televisions every hour daily to fully inform Malaysians about what is SARS, the symptoms of SARS and how to prevent it. This policy should not only applied to the official government station RTM, but the Ministry should also make it compulsory for all private television stations to air the program courtesy of Information Ministry in their respective channels. Besides informative programs, television stations should also host special medical talk on SARS by inviting medical specialist and experts to share their views about the disease. Call-in Q&A session should be conducted to let Malaysians to directly ask questions about how to prevent the disease in different scenarios and situations.

Two nights ago, I watched a sideline program on Astro's Wah Lai Toi about a Hong Kong's television medical talk about SARS. In the program, medical experts were asked on how to take pre-emptive measures in different situations. For example, should a pregnant woman wear a mask in public places? Malaysians who enjoys "First World Infrastructure" should not be receiving second hand information on SARS from a foreign TV program but must get first hand information in the country.

2) Informative leaflets in all public places and all public transports

Informative leaflets published by the Health Ministry which was distributed only at a few places particularly in Johor Bahru should be made available by a huge amount in all public places throughout the country especially in schools, hospitals, shopping centers, markets, restaurants, cinemas, banks, post offices etc. It should also be distributed on board of all public transports - planes, trains, inter-city buses, city and town buses, LRT, taxis etc.

3) Free respiratory mask to all front-line servicemen and students

The Health Ministry must immediately order respiratory masks and stock up to prepare in the case that ordinary people are highly required to wear masks to protect themselves. There are reports that there are not enough masks in SARS-affected countries due to heavy demand. As a cautious measure, all front-line servicemen like hospital staff, all government department staff, public transport workers, teachers and others who expose to large crowds and public should be given free respiratory mask and must wear it during their duties. All school students including those in universities should be given free masks as well as these are the most vulnerable groups to transmission of diseases.

4) Immediate detoxification of all public amenities in suspected areas.

Detoxification should be carried out immediately in all suspected areas where there are cases suspected SARS patients who either live or work in that place. If there is even a single suspected SARS case in a particular housing estate or apartment, the whole area should be detoxification and clean up especially in the public corridor, lifts, public telephone booths, drains, staircases etc.

5) All public buses, taxis and other public transport must keep cleanliness at the best level

The government through the relevant authorities must ensure the cleanliness of all public buses, taxis and other public transport such as trains and LRT and the respective terminals and stations at the most satisfactory level. Hygiene and cleanliness is very important to prevent the disease. This measure is even more important in Johor especially involving public transport which commutes between Johor Bahru and Singapore daily. Thus, all public buses companies and taxi companies operating in JB must be immediately directed to clean up their entire vehicle.

6) Education Ministry to come up with specific criteria to suspend school hours.

Singapore and Hong Kong has been very firm to stop all schools to prevent the disease. Although the situation in Malaysia is different and has not reached the stage yet, the Education Ministry should provide a clear guideline to all State Education Department to act fast to stop schools if there are SARS cases. For example, if there are more than one students suspected to be infected by SARS in a particular school, the school should be immediately closed for 10 days.

7) Unaccounted Emergency leave for all public servants who have symptoms of SARS

The Chief Secretary of the Federal Government should immediately issue a circular to all government departments head to empower them to grant unaccounted emergency leave for all public servants who have symptoms of SARS. Those who have symptoms of SARS should immediately stop their work to avoid any possible transmissions. They should get immediate medical attention and clearance before be allowed to resume their work. The government should also encourage the private sector to implement the same policy.

8) Contingency plans to cushion the economic effects

The different government ministries should immediately draw up strategies and come out with contingency plans to cushion the economic effects of the disease. Economic sectors such as tourism, services sectors, restaurant operators, SMEs, hawkers and small traders and businessmen will be affected most by the chain economic effects. The government should consider providing soft loans and other emergency packages to soften negative economic effects.


(4/4/2003)


* Loke Siew Fook, DAPSY National Secretary