Putrajaya messaging on Covid-19 good can be improved, says public health groups

Malaysian Medical Association president Dr N. Ganabaskaran said the government via the Health Ministry has been prompt in updating the public with the latest Covid-19 information. — Picture courtesy of Malaysian Medical Association
Malaysian Medical Association president Dr N. Ganabaskaran said the government via the Health Ministry has been prompt in updating the public with the latest Covid-19 information. — Picture courtesy of Malaysian Medical Association

KUALA LUMPUR, July 23 — Public health groups are largely satisfied with the government’s efforts in stressing the importance of Covid-19 prevention and how to tackle its associated risks.

They felt the messaging has been consistent in getting the point across, although improvements were possible

Malaysian Medical Association president Dr N. Ganabaskaran said the government via the Health Ministry has been prompt in updating the public with the latest Covid-19 information.

“MMA feels there should be more regular updates on the testing of high risk groups such as foreign workers. There was much concern about this group being tested,” he told Malay Mail.

With the number of cases rising back to double digits now, Dr Ganabaskaran said efforts to monitor and test these risk groups should be stepped-up. 

“The ministry should also provide more regular updates on the number of Covid-19 tests being done at both public and private healthcare facilities,” he said.

Malaysian Healthy Ageing Society president Dr Wong Teck Wee also echoed Dr Ganabaskaran’s sentiments, adding the ministry done well in educating the public on Covid-19 and in keeping the public updated and well informed. 

“One of the areas of messaging that can be improved is in the communication to shop/restaurant owners and the public on following the standard operating procedures (SOP). 

“There should be warnings on the heavy penalties for not adhering to the SOPs for business owners, or the public will take the SOPs lightly. We have observed that the level of compliance to the SOPs have dropped,” he said.

But Dr Wong also praised the recent introduction of a pop-up in the Selangkah and MySejahtera contact tracing apps, aimed at gathering feedback from its users. 

“We welcome this initiative and hope the public will help the authorities by providing feedback through the app, as it will improve preventive measures against Covid-19,” he said.

One dissenting voice is Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy chief executive officer Azrul Mohd Khalib, who said the government’s communications regarding Covid-19 has encountered a dilemma which many countries are currently facing.

“How do you tell the public that the government’s Covid-19 response is progressing well, that it is successful, but at the same time deal with the threat of complacency and false sense of security, which is starting to permeate? 

“Compliance with SOPs are starting to drop drastically, with many not bothering with many of the guidelines imposed for the recovery movement control order,” he said.

When it comes to the use of legislation and penalties to enforce compliance with anti-Covid 19 measures, Azrul said they disproportionately affect the poor, marginalised and most vulnerable.

“It is also surprising and disappointing that the government does not take its own SOPs seriously. Currently, even senior government officials seem to flaunt the very SOPs which they have imposed on the general public.

“They need to set a good example to the people by wearing face masks and practise social distancing. It does not make sense that they tell people to follow SOPs but they and their staff do not,” he said, adding that the authorities in turn cannot expect people to take compliance seriously when leaders do not.

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