Listen to people instead of blindly trusting data, Guan Eng tells govt over HIDE system

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Call to suspend “deeply flawed” HIDE system.

Former finance minister Lim Guan Eng has said the Perikatan Nasional administration would be better off by engaging and listening to the people, instead of solely relying on data and technology to handle the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said the latest flip-flop on Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOP), policy U-turns and double-standards in enforcement, and half-baked advice have not helped to contain the latest surge in infections.

“The fumbling, bumbling and tumbling roll-out of Hotspot Identification for Dynamic Engagement (HIDE) system is symptomatic of everything that is wrong about the failed PN government,” Lim said in a statement.


The Bagan MP said Putrajaya’s actions have resulted in utter confusion, frustration and anger from the public at the last-minute order to establishments listed under HIDE to close immediately for three days.

He questioned if HIDE is even relevant, seeing as to how even the Sabah state government has chosen to ignore it.

“The Sabah state government openly defies the federal government by publicly allowing three shopping centres that were listed by HIDE to continue to open and operate for business.

“Is HIDE still relevant when PN’s own Sabah state government has no confidence and openly disregards the three-day closure rule?” Lim asked.

Noting that several business bodies, including the Malaysia Shopping Malls Association, the Malaysia Retailers Association, the Malaysia Retail Chain Association, and the Bumiputera Retailers Organisation, have since urged the closure to be put off pending consultations, he said no one is asking the government not to close any business establishments that has recorded Covid-19 cases.

“But to apply a one size fits all approach runs counter to the HIDE system of using artificial intelligence algorithms relying on big data analytics to predict specific and identify potential hotspots.

“Further to list premises under HIDE can also be unfairly stigmatising premises that fully comply with Covid-19 SOPs,” Lim said.

He added that there may also be a flaw in the HIDE system where its databank is not comprehensive, by targeting those establishments that provide data obediently but let off those that fail to comply.

“This can be seen by complaints as to why certain premises without Covid-19 cases must close down, but not those with cases. This is no different from penalising good behaviour, good practices and SOP compliance.

“There is no reason why shops with no cases must close, just because of a nearby shop with Covid-19 cases. Further, the government has not explained its double standard in allowing public transport stations and terminals flagged by the HIDE system to remain open whilst shops on the transport stations must close,” he said.

Due to this, Lim wondered if HIDE is inaccurate by failing to state that shops on transport stations are the problem, and not the transport station itself.

“From ministerial advice to drink warm water to stop Covid-19, to double-standards where VIPs breaching movement control Order restriction get off scot-free or are punished leniently as compared to the ordinary rakyat, only the improper suspension of Parliament has saved the PN government from fully accounting for the failure of HIDE,” he said.

Meanwhile, DAP lawmaker Tony Pua has called for the suspension of the “deeply flawed” HIDE system.

The government should have known that something is wrong with its HIDE system when most of the locations listed are shopping malls and supermarkets, said Pua.

The Damansara MP said if every single mall on the list is a high-risk place, there would be such Covid-19 clusters some time ago, and not only in the next seven days.

“Pretty much every single mall of note was listed as potential clusters based on the data collected in the past seven days. This was despite the fact that the historical data showed shopping malls contributed to less than 5% of the Covid-19 clusters, as opposed to factories (48%) and construction sites (11.6%),” he said in a statement today.

“It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out how HIDE became so deeply flawed.

“The system designers of HIDE had treated all MySejahtera codes ‘equally’ in terms of risk and compliance with anti-Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOP). Except that they are not at all equal.”

HIDE, jointly developed by Bank Negara Malaysia and the Health Ministry, is aimed at giving early warning to prevent the spread of the virus based on data gathered through the MySejahtera app.

Pua urged the National Security Council and Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation to suspend the system until the flaws are fixed with more intelligent algorithms.

“Otherwise, we can continue to expect malls to open and shutter every few days because they will invariably appear at the top of the HIDE list due to the volume of traffic as a natural result of their sheer size of operations,” he said.

“Unless it is the intent of the government to take this opportunity to victimise all mall and supermarket businesses across the country, putting hundreds of thousands of people out of work, the government must not hide from its terrible HIDE and do the right thing now.”

Based on the maiden HIDE list on Saturday, Kuala Lumpur has the highest number of hotspot premises, followed by Selangor, Johor, Penang, Sarawak, Sabah, Putrajaya, Perak, Kelantan, Negri Sembilan and Malacca.

The list is available on the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry’s website, National Security Council Telegram and Public Health Malaysia Facebook.