Health Ministry should commission an independent inquiry as to whether there is any cover-up of the SARS outbreak in Malaysia to ensure national and international confidence in its full transparency on the new killer virus
Media Conference Statement
- DAP campaign to raise public SARS awareness at Bayan Baru market
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Friday): The Chinese Government has undertaken to investigate allegations that the government is covering up the true extent of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in Beijing, while admitting that some SARS cases may have been contracted in Beijing, something previously denied.
China's Vice Minister of Health Ma Xiaowei said yesterday that the number of SARS cases in Beijing had risen to 22 with four deaths. But those figures are far lower than the number of SARS patients reported by a Beijing doctor who said he knows in one hospital alone there were at least 60 cases and seven deaths.
The doctor, Jiang Yangyong from one of Beijing's military hospitals (Chinese People's Liberation Army General hospital), described the official figures as nonsense" and contacted foreign reporters.
While defending the Health Ministry's dealing of the outbreak, Vice Minister Ma also promised to investigate the alleged under-reporting of the number of sick.
The Health Minister, Datuk Chua
Jui Meng should also commission an independent inquiry as to whether there
is any cover-up of the SARS outbreak in Malaysia to ensure national and
international confidence in its full transparency on the new killer virus as
the Ministry's handling of the SARS outbreak in the first three weeks after
the WHO global alert on March 12 and the history of its handling of other
epidemics in the country are not calculated to inspire public confidence.
Dr. Lim had raised a very
pertinent question concerning not only doctors but also the public, and in
this case, whether patients going to hospitals and clinics should wear face
masks as hospitals and clinics are the most vulnerable places in the SARS
outbreak - a matter which the authorities concerned should give immediate
and proper guidance and advice.
In this connection, the Utusan Malaysia report today of the Health Ministry's daily SARS briefing, with the headline "Kaum Cina paling ramai disyaki hidap SARS" is a matter of grave concern, as it gives the false impression that the new killer virus is selective and discriminative in ethnic terms, lowering the guard of all Malaysians against SARS. The death of the Italian World Health Organisation (WHO) expert, Dr. Carlo Urbani in Thailand, the Finnish International Labour Organisation (ILO) expert, Pekka Aro in Beijing and the latest case of the American English-teacher James Salisbury in Hong Kong from SARS should dispel any false and dangerous notion that SARS is basically confined to any particular community or group.
In the worst dengue epidemic which is still raging on, Malays represent the biggest ethnic group among the dengue fatalities, but Utusan Malaysia has not carried any headline report highlighting the high incidence of Malays among the dengue fatalities. The media should exercise greater care in their reporting.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman