KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 14 — The recently proposed amendments to the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342), similar to the Emergency Ordinances (EO) that were invoked to fight Covid-19, are needed as they were proven to be effective, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said.

In a media briefing today to explain the rationale for the proposed amendments to the Act, Dr Noor Hisham said that it was also not viable to impose the same offer of RM1,000 payment as compound for individual offenders and companies or organisations that violate the Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Currently, Act 342, confers the DG the power to offer to collect a maximum RM1,000 to compound offences from both individuals and companies or organisations, following the repeal of the Emergency Ordinances (EOs) in Dewan Negara on December 8.

However, under the amendment Bill of the Act, compounds have been hiked to a maximum of RM10,000 for individuals and up to RM1 million for corporations.

“So we are still in a war against Covid-19. Our war has not yet ended. We are still in the transition phase towards an endemic phase and recently, we were challenged again with a new variant, that is Omicron, and we need this EO to be amended as soon as possible, so we can execute control and prevention activities for infectious diseases.

“And the provisions under the EO were found to be effective and helpful in our Covid-19 infectious disease control measures. That is when we were using the EO, we had made amendments so that the Act or rules that we have, can help in controlling the spread of the disease, and to date, God willing we could use the EO well, to control the spread of Covid-19,” Dr Noor Hisham said.

The Bill was tabled in the Dewan Rakyat for the first reading today, and the government is hoping to have it passed on Thursday, the last parliamentary meeting for the year.

Under the amendments, fines for offences committed by individuals are raised to a maximum of RM10,000 and up to RM1 million for corporate bodies.

Individuals who are convicted of offences under Act 342 can be penalised with a maximum RM100,000 fine, up to seven years imprisonment, or both, under a proposed amendment to Section 24 of the existing Act 342.

The government is also proposing a maximum fine of RM2 million for companies as well as government agencies, upon conviction.

Currently, Act 342's Section 24 only lists out the penalties for any person ― without specifying separate penalties for individuals or corporate bodies ― convicted of committing any offence under the Act to be a maximum two-year jail or fine or both for a first offence, to a maximum five-year jail or fine or both for a second or subsequent offence, and a maximum daily fine of RM200 for every day that the offence continues.

In the proposed amendments, a new Section 22A also seeks to enforce presumption of guilt on companies.

The explanation stated that an organisation is presumed guilty of an offence, unless it proves that the offence was done without its “knowledge, consent or connivance” and that all reasonable precautions had been taken, with due diligence also carried out, to prevent the offence from being committed.

Another new Section 14A has also been proposed, which grants the power to an authorised officer to order “any person who is infected or whom he has reason to believe has been infected with an infectious disease to undergo isolation or surveillance in such place and for such period as he may think fit or until he may be discharged without danger to the public.”

Section 14A(2) reads that for the aforementioned purpose “an authorised officer may use such force as may be necessary to ensure compliance with his order.”

The Bill read that the amendments would also cost the government extra financial expenditure, of which the amount “cannot at present be ascertained”.

On December 8, the Senate approved a motion to revoke the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance 2021, the Emergency (Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases) (Amendment) Ordinance 2021; the Emergency (Employees’ Minimum Standards of Housing, Accommodations and Amenities) (Amendment) Ordinance 2021 and the Emergency (Essential Powers) (No. 2) Ordinance 2021.

The Emergency (Essential Powers) (Amendment) Ordinance 2021, the Emergency (Offenders Compulsory Attendance) (Amendment) Ordinance 2021 and the Emergency (National Trust Fund) (Amendment) Ordinance 2021 were also revoked.