Govt needs to listen to real health experts and not waste funds to beat Covid-19, medical group tells Zuraida’s aide

The Malaysian Medical Association emblem is seen at their headquarters in Kuala Lumpur November 13, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara
The Malaysian Medical Association emblem is seen at their headquarters in Kuala Lumpur November 13, 2019. — Picture by Hari Anggara

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KUALA LUMPUR, June 6 — Amid another lockdown, the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) today urged the government to heed the advice of real infectious diseases experts to better combat the pandemic.

MMA president Prof Datuk Dr Subramaniam Muniandy said the association agrees with former Universiti Malaya medical faculty dean and infectious diseases expert Prof Datuk Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman who said the government’s ongoing public sanitisation methods were a waste of precious public funds and resources.

“The Housing and Local Government Minister’s political secretary Nor Hizwan Ahmad is no expert on infectious diseases. He should have given his boss Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin the right advice to his boss instead of apple polishing,” Dr Subramaniam said in a statement.

He chided Nor Hizwan for not checking his facts before publicly criticising Dr Adeeba on the effective management of Covid-19.

Last Friday, Nor Hizwan criticised Dr Adeeba for questioning the ministry’s public sanitisation initiative. The minister’s aide claimed it is not a mere disinfection process but is instead a much more thorough process.

Dr Subramaniam said this is why experts like Dr Adeeba are needed to advise the government.

“The latest evidence shows that SARS-CoV-2 is an airborne virus, and therefore large-scale disinfecting of public areas will not be effective in preventing spread of the disease.

“It is also pointless since these large surfaces which have been disinfected will very quickly be contaminated again. The standard operating procedures (SOP) of physical distancing, face-masking and hand sanitising are far more effective, evidence based preventive measures against Covid-19,” he said.

Dr Subramaniam also cited leading health authorities as not recommending the practice of public sanitation, including the United States’ Centre for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) which stated that spraying cleaning products or disinfectants in outdoor areas such as on sidewalks, roads or groundcover is unnecessary, effective or recommended.

“The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also issued an alert about the hazards of public disinfections as the chemicals used, including formaldehyde, chlorine-based agents or quaternary ammonium, are not recommended due to its adverse health effects.

“The MMA hopes that after three movement control orders and now a second full-lockdown, the government has woken up and realised it is time to start listening to the experts. It is clear, based on the exponentially high numbers of infections and high death rate we see today, that a number of government policies have failed to bring the Covid-19 situation in the country under control,” he said.

The association is one of several organisations which have backed Dr Adeeba’s call to end the practice of public sanitation. Others include the Academy of Medicine Malaysia, which issued a statement on June 3 saying there is no proof the practice has any efficacy.

Dr Adeeba, a member of the WHO Science Council whose aim is to promote the further advancement of medical science in service of the public, said the ongoing public sanitation exercises carried out mainly in open premises including public markets run contrary to the CDC’s updated guidelines.

Instead, she said the recommended method is to conduct disinfection in smaller indoor settings where there’s been a suspected or confirmed case within the last 24 hours.

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