Health D-G: Malaysia had no Covid-19 surge after Raya in 2020, let’s avoid having to choose who lives or dies when ICU beds run out

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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

KUALA LUMPUR, May 8 — Malaysia was able to avoid having a spike in Covid-19 cases last year after Hari Raya by taking steps such as not holding open houses, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah pointed out today.

Dr Noor Hisham then urged Malaysians to help ensure that hospitals would not be forced into a situation of choosing which patient lives or dies when Intensive Care Unit (ICUs) beds run out, by not holding “superspreader” social events and complying with Covid-19 precautions.

Ahead of the Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations next week, Dr Noor Hisham said Malaysia is now in “extraordinary times” which require “extraordinary measures”, and that Malaysians cannot afford to be complacent.

He urged for all agencies and the relevant sectors and Malaysians to comply with the National Security Council’s guidelines and stressed that no large gatherings should be held as these can cause Covid-19 infections to spread.

“We must try to avoid superspreader events like weddings, funerals So all superspreader events, we should not allow it to take place at least for now, two weeks and four weeks, this is a very crucial two weeks and four weeks for us to contain the infection,” he said, noting that weddings and funerals had been documented to be superspreader events where a high number of individuals become infected.

He urged Malaysians not to carry out open houses for Raya celebrations, which is not allowed at all nationwide by the government for this year.

“Stay at home if possible, have an in-house Hari Raya, no open house, but an in-house Hari Raya among yourself.

“Just like last year, we did the same and we can contain the infection. Last year after Hari Raya, there was no surge of infection, why can’t we do it again?

“Because now the cases are very high, if you are infected, come to the hospital, if we do not have ICU beds, we are in trouble.

“So then, we don’t want to end up like countries, where we have to select who will live and who will die,” he said.

“At the moment we still have the capacity, but we urge all Malaysians to make sure you comply with SOPs, because we are in a critical position. Public hospitals, private hospitals — we are running out of ICUs and ICU beds.

“Hopefully you can give us a period of two weeks, that will give us a buffer to prepare ourselves, reorganise ourselves to probably bring down cases so that our hospitals can cater for patients infected with Covid-19,” he said.

Last year, Dr Noor Hisham had also asked Malaysians not to have open house for Hari Raya celebrations.

Parts of Malaysia now are under the third edition of the movement control order (MCO), with the government today also announcing that all interstate and inter-district travel would not be allowed nationwide without the police’s permission from May 10 to June 6.

The government recently announced a set of rules on how Hari Raya celebrations are to be carried out this year, including no open houses and conditional allowance for visits to homes on limited days and with limited number of guests allowed.

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