Chua should provide cumulative number of SARS cases
by Fong Po Kuan
(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): The media has not been able to contact the Health Minister Datuk Chua Jui Meng or the Health Ministry Director General Tan Sri Dr Taha Mohamad Arif for an update of the recent statistics on SARS despite the earlier promise of Chua to give daily briefing to the press on the latest SARS development.
Today, the media reported that Chua had said that he would only provide current statistics and not the cumulative number of SARS cases. He has also not given any reasons for not disclosing the cumulative number of SARS cases.
Chua is wrong if he thinks that by not informing the public of the cumulative number of SARS cases in Malaysia, the public would not panic and the situation would be in control. Chua's stance would not only again give rise to speculations and contradictory reports in the media but also further cause the Ministry to lose credibility in the eyes of the international community. For example, a Chinese newspaper reported that 91 suspected SARS cases as of yesterday whereas an English paper stated 82 suspected SARS cases.
The Ministry should avoid following the footsteps of China and instead fully adopt the manner in which the Singapore government is handling this issue, i.e. with full transparency. There is not only an urgent need for the Ministry to disclose the cumulative number of SARS cases, but also details of cases reported to the Ministry, as for example, how many cases are imported cases, whether they are health workers, age, gender, the linkage of all the SARS cases and steps taken to trace persons who had contact with SARS patients.
The Ministry would not inspire much confidence of the public by saying that the Ministry had already taken all preventive measures and even more than that required by WHO if the Ministry merely reply to the public by saying that if persons whom the Ministry are not able to trace have not reported of any sickness, then they are believed to be well.
* Fong Po Kuan, Member of Parliament for Batu Gajah and DAP Central Executive Committee Member