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Sunday, January 31, 2021

Is Noor Hisham a bystander in the Covid-19 crisis?

 

Has health chief Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah gone from being a motivator to bystander? His wisdom is missing. His perspective on the current worrying situation is desperately needed.

With Ismail Sabri, the senior minister for security, there is aggravation whenever he speaks. He causes anxiety.

He is an annoyance, while Noor Hisham seems to have dropped out of national notice in the war against the coronavirus.

Some claim the director-general of health, who wasn’t fazed by whatever was thrown at him in the early days of the crisis, is in a political straitjacket.

Could it be that his views have narrowed the political and economic choices of those in power to relatively tight parameters?

If that is true, it needs fixing. In the meantime, the people expect professionalism and strong leadership at a time when Covid-19 infections and deaths are rising.

That means Noor Hisham has to be firm and shoot straight to give Malaysians the confidence that the war is being fought with confidence.

His daily live Covid-19 briefings stopped after three months in June when cases dipped, with daily updates coming in the form of press statements.

However, he should have faced a dazed nation on Friday and Saturday, when Covid-19 cases hit a record high of over 5,000 on both days, pushing the cumulative cases past the 200,000 mark.

People wanted to know how that happened, especially in Selangor where more than 3,000 cases were recorded on both days. Fear has been heightened.

On Saturday, Selangor menteri besar Amirudin Shari attributed the surge in cases to the backlog of cases over the past 10 days, saying that the figures were not reported in real-time.

Unlike Noor Hisham, who is known to defuse tension, Amirudin created a row with his remarks, which brought a warning from groups representing private hospitals and physicians not to threaten them with fines for slow reporting of positive Covid-19 tests.

Noor Hisham’s clarity and candour were needed to calm nerves when night markets were allowed back in business during the lockdown.

People wanted to know whether there was a trade-off between protecting public health and shielding businesses.

Ismail Sabri, who made the announcement, merely implied it was safe to patronise the night markets. Noor Hisham said nothing.

Would the sense of bravado shown by the authorities in dangerously downplaying threats be the reason that many people are not greeting the expected lifting of the movement control order on Feb 4 as sweet, merciful relief?

Truth is people do not feel it is like an MCO now, what with almost everything opened up.

Almost a year into the pandemic, the government is flying blind and the country is trapped in a cycle of lockdown and relaxation.

Our leaders, probably chasing popularity by lifting restrictions and responding with reactive, disconnected policies, still have no plan to control it.

That’s as scary as Covid-19 itself.

Noor Hisham must not give people the impression that he has normalised inability.

Let’s see your concern about the welfare of your fellow citizens re-emerge in a bigger way and see you implement a radically different approach to the scourge.

The US-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has predicted a continuous rise of Covid-19 cases in Malaysia, hitting over 20,000 daily infections from March 3.

So, start with how the government communicates with the governed. - FMT

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of MMKtT.

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