Ex-health minister takes government to task over staggering number of Covid-19 cases

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As Covid-19 cases surpassed the one-million mark in Malaysia, a former health minister has questioned the government’s capability in containing the virus spread.

Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad (PH-Kuala Selangor) said the staggering number reflected the weaknesses of Perikatan Nasional and the national healthcare delivery system.

He said the government had failed to steer the nation out of the third wave of Covid-19 infections, citing among others, delays in carrying out mass testing.

“The Health Ministry only conducts targeted testing and contact tracing after a cluster has already emerged.

“At times, a cluster is only declared a month and a half after the index case was detected,” he said during Dewan Rakyat special sitting today.

He said the MySejahtera app was unable to unlock the key of success to automated contact tracing as seen in countries like Singapore which uses Bluetooth-enabled contact tracing device technology.

He said countries like South Korea and Taiwan had fast contact tracing systems instead of merely deploying one officer to man the phone at the district health office to contact some 200 to 300 people daily.

He said while the government had recently taken a step in the right direction by not relying solely on RT-PCR tests and engage RTK-Antigen tests, “the action had come too little too late”.

“The government has also failed to optimise technology and artificial intelligence (AI) fully in testing and contact tracing in order to pre-empt outbreaks and predict future Covid-19 hotspots.”

Dr Dzulkefly, who is the Selangor Covid-19 Task Force chairman, said the state was able to conduct active case detection in community screening using Acura A1 and big data analytics in Selangor when they had access to Health Ministry’s epidemiological granular line-listing data, but it has since late last year stopped doing so.

He also pointed out poor diagnostic policies were among the main failures in the country’s management of the Covid-19 pandemic, saying that the government had relied too much on the results of the RT-PCR as screening method.

This, he said, had slowed down its response time. – NST