Wednesday, August 19, 2009

H1N1: Health curfew 'a last resort'

Health curfew 'a last resort'


Annie Freeda Cruez and Shuhada Elis

H1N1 situation 'manageable', people advised to play their part in preventing the disease from spreading.

KUALA LUMPUR: “No” to health curfew.

Both the National Security Council and the Health Ministry said the situation in the country was manageable, with the influenza A (H1N1) mortality rate at only 0.007 per cent.

National Security Council director-general Datuk Mohamed Thajudeen Abdul Wahab told the New Straits Times that declaring a curfew would be the last resort, where the situation had reached the worst case scenario.

“We are far from that level,” he said.

On Monday, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the H1N1 outbreak was a “national health emergency” and the government would consider a curfew should the mortality rate rise above 0.4 per cent.

Thajudeen said several agencies, including the council, were working closely with the Health Ministry to monitor the situation.

“We have been having regular meetings with the ministry, some
times more than once a week,” he said.

He added that the government needed cooperation from the public
to curb the spread of the virus and asked those who were sick to quarantine themselves.

Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican, appearing on a
NSTLive session at Balai Berita yesterday, said the ministry would not advise the government to impose a health curfew just yet.

He said a health curfew would not stop the virus from spreading.

“You impose a curfew for one or two weeks, what do you do after
that? Continue with the curfew or stop it? Let’s say you stop it but do you think the virus will just go away?

“The virus is not going to go away, it is going to stay for a long time.”

Dr Ismail said a health curfew would not improve the situation.

“Rather than impose a health curfew, it will be better if all Malaysians played their part in delaying the spread of the disease while the ministry concentrated on giving treatment.”

He felt strongly that there was a lot more that the ministry could do, through the cooperation of the public, corporate bodies, business enterprises and others, to delay the spread of the disease.

Dr Ismail said Malaysians should go on with their normal life but strictly adhere to personal hygiene, such as washing their hands with soap and water and using hand sanitiser, to avoid being infected.

"Please wear your face mask if you are sick. By doing so, you will protect others from being infected," he said, adding that Malaysians could demand for a national health emergency or health curfew.

But he warned that if they were not disciplined enough, then all the measures put in place would not help in containing the H1N1.

Malaysian Medical Association president Dr David K.L. Quek concurred with the decision, saying that the World Health Organisation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States had never mentioned a curfew.

He said Mexico, which announced a one-week curfew in May to contain the virus, only did so because they did not know what they were facing as the virus was then new.

Yesterday, the Health Ministry recorded three more deaths, raising the death toll to 67 with 4,501 confirmed cases.

Dr Ismail said 276 H1N1 patients were being treated in hospitals nationwide and that 36 were in intensive care units. Of those in the ICUs, 21 are in the high-risk category and suffering from various complications due to their illnesses.

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