KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 14 — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob has dismissed calls to remove his Cabinet member Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein from chairing the Covid-19 Quartet Ministerial Meeting following a breach of Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOP) in Johor yesterday.

He said the violation of the SOP by the senior defence minister is not considered a crime.

“It’s not a crime. A compound has been issued by the Health Ministry. Many government officers violated the SOPs; do they then need to hand in their resignation?” Ismail Sabri told reporters when met after the launch ceremony for the initial findings of the 2020 Malaysia Population and Housing Census at the Management and Science University here.

The prime minister was responding to reporters’ questions regarding calls by Opposition lawmaker Hannah Yeoh, who said that the fine imposed by the Health Ministry under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 was insufficient.

Yeoh said Hishammuddin was in a position of authority that accorded him special officers who could head to the venue ahead and ensure proper physical distancing measures so he would not be caught in violation of the SOP.

Yeoh also reportedly said that a fine is simply not enough, especially for a senior minister who sits on the front bench of the Executive and was previously caught vaping in Parliament when the health minister had declared war on smoking.

Ismail Sabri added that what is important is that action has been taken and there is no difference among government officers, be it a minister or deputy minister.

“We don’t consider any differences among government officers, they can be ministers, deputy ministers, head of departments of just any [government officer].

“There is no concept of those in ‘high places’ not getting fined and only those ‘below’ get fined. This includes the defence minister and others,” he said.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin announced yesterday that Hishammuddin and MIC president Tan Sri S. Vigneswaran will receive compound notices for breaching Covid-19 regulations during the Johor MIC political event in Iskandar Puteri.

Khairy added that he has also told enforcement officers to issue a compound notice to caretaker Johor mentri besar Datuk Seri Hasni Mohamed over the Johor MIC Brigade launch that all three attended.

Johoreans go to vote on March 12 with early polling on March 8. Nomination has been set for February 26.

Malaysia is experiencing a surge in Covid-19 infections that have been attributed to the easily transmissible Omicron variant.

The Health Ministry reported 21,072 new Covid-19 infections yesterday, nearly four times the 5,566 cases recorded at the start of February.