Zuraida’s aide chides WHO expert Dr Adeeba who called govt’s public sanitisation ‘waste of resources’

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The political secretary to Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin today criticised infectious disease expert and World Health Organisation Science Council panel Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman for questioning the ministry’s public sanitisation initiative and calling it a “waste of resources”.

Nor Hizwan Ahmad said the public sanitisation initiative was an effort that was approved by the government as part of the effort to minimise the risks of Covid-19 infections in public places.

“The people need assurance and they appreciate any efforts made by the government to minimise the risk of infection. Furthermore, it is focused on areas that have been confirmed to have an active case of Covid-19.

“This sanitation process is not a mere disinfection process. This term of public sanitation includes decontamination, disinfection and laundry activities, as well as public sanitation. It’s so much more thorough and not just disinfection only,” he said in a statement this evening.

Nor Hizwan said public sanitation has become one of the new norms to ensure the community is always safe, clean and healthy.

He said the Fire and Rescue Department has carried out 26,000 public sanitisation efforts since last year.

The political secretary also “called” Dr Adeeba to focus on Selangor as she was part of the Covid-19 task force panel and to work together with the government in the fight against the virus.

“I urge Adeeba, who is a panellist on the Selangor Task Force for Covid-19, to focus on Selangor which has been recording the highest number of cases in the country.

“Let us find a way out…now is not the time to find fault with anyone.

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“Adeeba and all those who often criticise the government’s efforts should follow and appreciate the government’s efforts in curbing the spread of Covid-19 in the country,” he said.

Dr Adeeba, an infectious disease expert, previously said sanitisation work had been deemed “a waste of time and money”.

She said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had since April updated its guidelines to advise against large-scale sanitisation exercises as a Covid-19 prevention measure.

She added that the updated guideline went contrary to the ongoing exercise which targets open premises including public markets as the CDC states that disinfection is recommended in smaller indoor settings where there’s been a suspected or confirmed case within the last 24 hours.

Yesterday, The Academy of Medicine of Malaysia (AMM) also dismissed open public sanitisation and called upon the government to prioritise Covid-19 interventions that will help reduce cases, as well as protect hospitals and intensive care facilities during the full-scale lockdown.

The academy also cited the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) alert on the hazards of this public disinfection exercise, which stated that spraying or fogging certain chemicals including formaldehyde, chlorine-based agent or quaternary ammonium is not recommended due to adverse health effects.

Aside from Adeeba, other public health experts have similarly questioned the ministry’s public sanitisation drives.

Groups like the Malaysian Public Health Physicians’ Association and the Academy of Medicine of Malaysia have also called for “science-backed strategies” in combating Covid-19.