Thursday, November 26, 2020

Health ministry advises no election for now

Health DG Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah says if an election cannot be avoided, strict SOPs must be put in place and enforced to minimise infections.

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Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah says the health ministry recommends that no elections be held for the time being in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

If an election cannot be avoided, he said, the ministry will hold discussions with the Election Commission (EC) on different ways of approaching the issue.

“(Firstly), no cross-border and no cross-district (travel), and no ‘balik kampung’ for the election.

“Secondly, no (mass) gatherings and thirdly, no house-to-house visits. These are the three main issues that we need to discuss with the EC, and whether we can implement the use of postal votes and so on. We can continue to discuss with the EC to improve the situation.

“As far as the health ministry is concerned, we only give recommendations. If it cannot be avoided and you still have to hold an election, in line with the constitution, then we have to look into the SOPs on how we can conduct the election and minimise infections.

“Even though the SOPs are available, compliance with the SOPs is more important,” he said in a press conference today. “I think we have seen and learnt this from the Sabah election. We hope we don’t need to repeat the consequences of an election in other states.”

Earlier, Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the government would discuss with the EC the implementation of tighter SOPs for the Batu Sapi by-election on Dec 5, to ensure that public health would not be compromised when voters go out to vote.

He added that the government was not empowered to disallow the holding of elections as this matter came under the jurisdiction of the EC.

Speaking today, Noor Hisham also advised NGOs planning to assist those affected by the Covid-19 pandemic to do so under the health ministry.

He said this would ensure that participants receive basic training on infection control and allow coordination in terms of logistics.

“There are two types of NGOs,” he said. “One, they go on their own without informing the ministry. But our fear is that they (NGO members) will get infected, especially those who do not have experience in infection control. The intention is good but we also need to protect the NGOs.

“Look at our frontliners, even they get infected, what more the NGO members going to the ground. We also have a few NGO members already forming a cluster after coming back from Sabah. In Selangor, for example, a few of our staff also got infected,” he added.

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