Saturday, January 22, 2022

Don’t cripple health ministry by blocking Act 342 bill, Khairy urges MPs

He says the accompanying guidelines will protect the people from being slapped with unjust compounds for violating Covid-19 SOPs.

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Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has urged MPs to support the bill to amend the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342), saying this could strengthen the government’s arsenal in the fight against Covid-19.

Khairy said he had briefed MPs on Monday regarding the guidelines and conditions which need to be fulfilled before the proposed enhanced penalties can be meted out for the violation of Covid-19 SOPs.

The guidelines would protect the people from being slapped with unjust compounds for violating the SOPs, he said.

“Surely we are not going to issue a RM10,000 compound against someone for not wearing a face mask,” he added.

Khairy said the existing law was not effective in curbing the spread of Covid-19 because even factories which contribute to clusters could be fined only a maximum of RM1,000 although their revenue might run into the billions.

“So, I would say MPs should not block the amendments as this would cripple the health ministry.

“We are fine-tuning the guidelines, and I have told all MPs including from the opposition that I will bring the guidelines to the Select Committee,” he said at a press conference in Sri Aman today.

Khairy also rejected claims by the opposition that the proposed amendments are punitive in nature.

“We have guidelines to prevent the abuse of power. I am appealing for the amendments to be passed at this sitting. Tomorrow is the last day and if we wait until March next year, we don’t know what will happen in the next two months with the emergence of Omicron and the like.

“Being punitive is the last resort but we need to have weapons to face this pandemic. We have done our bit with vaccination, early measures, SOPs and control but what about the question of fines?”

The bill, tabled for first reading in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday, proposes a maximum RM1 million fine on companies and organisations and up to RM10,000 on individuals who flout the SOPs.

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