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Media Statement (2) by Lim Kit Siang in Petaling Jaya on Sunday, 16th August 2009: 

A(H1N1) flu death toll climbs to 62 with daily increase of 283 cases to total 3,857 cases – Japan and South Korea confirm their first A(H1N1) death

The A (H1N1) flu death toll in Malaysia has climbed to 62 with another three fatalities with the daily increase of 283 cases to total 3,857 cases in the country.

On the international front, South Korea and Japan have confirmed their first A (H1N1) death.

The first South-Korea death is a 56-year-old man who returned from a visit to Thailand while the first Japanese death , a man in his fifties, had apparently not been overseas.

The H1N1 flu outbreak, declared a pandemic in June, has spread around the world and could eventually affect 2 billion people, according to World Health Organisation estimates.

The virus has killed more than 800 people worldwide since emerging in April.

For the first time, the Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai has admitted that A (H1N1) virus could affect five million Malaysians, based on the WHO estimate that that if 20% of Malaysia’s 27.7 million or 5.5 million are at risk and exposed to the virus.

This report was given prominent treatment in some local media which should help in creating greater public alert and vigilance against the killer pandemic.

The question is why Liow had not taken the first opportunity to warn Malaysians of this worst-scene WHO scenario, when the National Influenza Pandemic Task Force was first informed of this possible scenario by Dr Tee Ah Sian, WHO director of communicable diseases some three weeks ago on July 27.

I had asked Liow on July 31 to respond to this WHO worst-scene scenario but the Health Minister chose to keep his silence – when his prompt communication of this scenario might have helped to create greater national awareness and vigilance with a reduced number of the number of cases and fatalities which have occurred so far.

In this connection, the concerns expressed in a letter to Malaysiakini by Professor Dr. Mohd Tajuddin Rasdi warrant prompt response from the Health Minister, viz:

  • The callous attitude of the Minister for Information, Communication and Culture Datuk Seri Rais Yatim who had said that Malaysians should not be alarmed or be an alarmist because Britain had 350 deaths and they did not “panic” or “raise the alarm”; and

  • The official line reflected in the media reporting that suggests that only a certain “high risk” group is susceptible to end up fatally.

An important element of the strategy in the war against A (H1N1) flu killer pandemic is to have a special unit which responds to public concerns which appear in the public domain but which seems to be woefully non-existent in Malaysia despite the WHO declaration of a pandemic in June.

*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor



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