Health Ministry issues gag order against staff after public complaints on Covid-19 vaccine rollout

A nurse loads a syringe with a dose of the Pfizer-BioTech Covid-19 vaccine at the UiTM Hospital in Sungai Buloh March 2, 2021. ― Picture by Hari Anggara
A nurse loads a syringe with a dose of the Pfizer-BioTech Covid-19 vaccine at the UiTM Hospital in Sungai Buloh March 2, 2021. ― Picture by Hari Anggara

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KUALA LUMPUR, March 4 — The Ministry of Health (MoH) has today warned its staff against making public statements, especially on social media platforms, after a staff purportedly criticised Putrajaya’s Covid-19 vaccination plan.

In a statement today, the ministry’s chief secretary Datuk Mohd Shafiq Abdullah said that a post on the vaccination purportedly written by a MoH staff, was made viral on social media, but he did not elaborate on the post.

“In line with the principle of service and rules regarding discipline, each and every civil servant is warned against making direct or indirect statement, touching on the execution of any public policies, programmes and government decisions without obtaining prior permission.

“Statements which are improper and made without checking would not only affect the image of the officer as a civil servant, but in fact it can cause confusion and anxiety in the community, as well as sully the credibility of the civil service and the government,” Shafiq said.

He added that the rules on ethics and discipline in the civil service, especially on social media usage and the regulation against making public statements without permission is not to curtail their freedom of speech.

Instead, he said staff should use “the right response and complaint channels”, as well as to uphold the image and credibility of the officer, the civil service and the government.

“Every staff in MoH is reminded from time to time to mind their courteousness when using social media, and to be mindful of its usage limits, so as to not commit any wrongdoings which can result in disciplinary action,” he said.

He also said the ministry is taking social media abuse, as well as improper statements by its staff members, as a serious matter.

Shafiq also warned disciplinary action against those who are found to have violated the set rules.

This comes following several complaints by public healthcare workers over political leaders allegedly jumping the queue to get vaccinated against Covid-19, usually at the detriment of MoH staff.

Minister of Science and Technology Khairy Jamaluddin, who is in charge of the vaccines access under the Special Committee for Ensuring Access to Covid-19 Vaccine Supply, then stepped in and promised to investigate such cases.

On the same day, Putrajaya then issued a guideline saying Cabinet members, state executive councillors, federal and state lawmakers and government officials accompanying ministers abroad now qualify as political “frontliners” for phase one of the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme.

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