Dr Noor Hisham: Special Parliament sitting postponed for two weeks from July 29 onwards

Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah speaks during a press conference in Putrajaya on January 19, 2021. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah speaks during a press conference in Putrajaya on January 19, 2021. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

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KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 1 — The special sitting of the Dewan Rakyat initially slated for tomorrow will be postponed for the next two weeks starting July 29, the Health Ministry announced today.

Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the postponement took into account the current risk assessment involving mass gatherings, which posed a high risk of Covid-19 transmission, especially at times where dangerous variants such as the Delta variant — known as B.1.617.2 — are spreading within the community and the worsening daily cases recorded nationwide.

“Taking into account the results of current risk assessment and to curb the spread of Covid-19 infection in Parliament, the ministry has recommended that all meeting sessions including Parliamentary Select and Select Committee meetings as well as any debates planned or involved individuals in Parliament to be postponed for the time being for a period of two weeks from July 29 onwards.

“The risk assessment on the resurgence of Covid-19 infection in Parliament will be re-evaluated from time to time,” he said in a statement here.

He said a total of 11 suspected Covid-19 cases — five symptomatic — were initially detected during the four-day special sitting period after the first index case emerged on July 29.

Recounting the chronology of events prior to the special sitting on July 26, Dr Noor Hisham said 60 individuals out of 2,093 screened were found Covid-19 positive and were ordered to undergo isolation.

He affirmed that all 60 were not present during the first day of the special sitting as only those testing negative and non-symptomatic will be allowed entry into Parliament.

Subsequently, he said a meeting was held together with both the Speaker and Deputy Speaker, senior party leaders from both ruling and non-ruling political parties, deputy Prime Minister and the Law Minister prior to Monday’s sitting for a briefing.

In that briefing, Dr Noor Hisham said the attendees were presented with two options, either to postpone Parliament until at least immunisation rates in the Klang Valley have reached 40 per cent or to continue with the sitting but limiting the number of participants and shortening each session to reduce exposure.

The second option also being to immediately halt any ongoing sitting if a positive Covid-19 case is detected.

“The meeting concluded and agreed to implement the second option,” Dr Noor Hisham added.

Fast forward to July 29, Dr Noor Hisham said the ministry was informed of two new positive cases which involved a Parliament staff member and another unnamed individual during an on-site screening the same day.

“The first case involved a staff member who was present in Parliament from July 26 and was found positive through a RT-PCR test at a healthcare facility with a cycle threshold (CT) value of 18.71.

“The second case was detected during an on-site screening at 12.30pm, July 29 through a RTK Antigen saliva test,” he said.

CT value indicates how much virus an infected person harbours, with lower numbers indicating higher viral load.

Following the discoveries, the Health Ministry immediately made the decision to conduct an on-site RTK Antigen saliva test on 1,183 individuals and discovered a further nine positive cases.

Of the 11 cases detected after July 26, Dr Noor Hisham said 10 cases — obtained using the RTK Antigen saliva test — were ordered to undergo a further swab test using RT PCR for further validation where eight of them were confirmed positive.

“Five cases were discovered to have high infectivity rates (CT value between 12.67 until 18.19) and their samples have been sent to the Institution of Medical Research to determine their variants,” he said.

Dr Noor Hisham also revealed that of the eight confirmed cases, only two possessed complete vaccination records (14 days after second dose).

To date, he said there have been 48 close contacts identified thus far but added it was an ongoing process.

As for the Dewan Negara, a total of nine Covid-19 positive cases were detected from 100 individuals screened using the RT PCR test.

“Although the number of positive cases detected was at 0.8 per cent, the conclusion of our risk assessment after taking account of epidemiology and environment, found that the Parliament sitting is a high risk gathering susceptible to Covid-19 infections,” he said.

He then urged all individuals who were present in Parliament between July 26 and July 29 to monitor their health status using the MySejahtera application, advising them to seek medical treatment at the nearest healthcare facilities if they were symptomatic.

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