Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Member of Parliament for Bangi and Assistant Political Education Director for the Democratic Action Party (DAP) on the 22nd of January, 2021

The National Security Council (NSC) failed the country in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in allowing inter-state travel in December 2020 when the “percent positive” testing rate for the virus was over 5%

On the 18th of January, 2021, I published a list of 10 COVID-19 related questions directed to the Director General (DG) of Health, Tan Sri Dr. Noor Hisham.[1] One of the questions I asked was whether the DG would publish the Rt Values by state so that the public can know the projected COVID-19 trends for each state and also how the Rt value can be used to determine when the current MCO 2.0 can be lifted for each state. I would like to thank the DG for publishing the latest Rt values by the state yesterday, on the 21st of January, 2021.[2] These projections show that the number of daily COVID-19 could reach 8000 cases by the end of March 2021 if the Rt value remains at 1.1 for the entire country.

Apart from the Rt value, we should also focus on the daily “percent positive” rate of COVID-19 tests. I also called for this figure to be revealed nationally and by state. Although the positive testing rate is not published publicly by the Ministry of Health (MOH), these figures are provided to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and subsequently published in the “OUR WORLD IN DATA” website.[3]

Why is the daily “percent positive” rate an important measure? According to experts at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the percent positive is a critical measure because it gives us an indication how widespread infection is in the area where the testing is occurring—and whether levels of testing are keeping up with levels of disease transmission.“[4] How should we interpret this “percent positive” figure? What levels should be considered too high?

According to the WHO, the threshold of “percent positive” is 5%. Only when this figure drops to less than 5% should a government relax existing public health measures put in place to control the spread of COVID-19. On the 21st of January 2021, CodeBlue reported that Malaysia’s “percent positive” rate has been more than 5% since the 6th of November 2020 and has not dropped below 5% since.[5] (Figures reproduced in Figure 1 below) Since the “percent positive” rate was more than 5% in the months of November and December, why did the National Security Council (NSC) allow for inter-state travel to take place starting on the 7th of December 2020 under the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO)? Could this have contributed to the spike in the number of COVID cases especially given the high amount of travel to places like Langkawi during the end of the year holiday?

This is another example of the lack of consistency on the part of the National Security Council (NSC) when it comes to public policies in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Decisions to restrict movement and then later increase restrictions do not seem to be based on any consistent rules or guidelines. The Perikatan Nasional (PN) government has once again failed to convince the public that it has a consistent, coherent, and comprehensive plan to control this pandemic.






Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, Member of Parliament for Bangi and Assistant Political Education Director for the Democratic Action Party (DAP) on the 18th of January, 2021

10 Questions for Tan Sri Dr. Noor Hisham, Director General of Health

Two days ago, on the 16th of January, 2021, Malaysia reached a new high of 4,029 COVID-19 cases. We have just started the first week of the second Movement Control Order (MCO 2.0) and this will go on for two weeks from the 13th of January until the 26th of January. By contrast, we reached a high of 235 COVID-19 cases on the 26th of March, 2020, during the first MCO. Credit should be given to the leadership of Tan Sri Dr. Noor Hisham, the Director General (DG) of Health, and the public health front liners for their tireless efforts in combating the COVID-19 pandemic. But nine months after the first MCO, there are a number of questions that remain unanswered in our fight against the COVID pandemic. I hope that DG Noor Hisham can provide convincing answers to the following 10 questions in order to assure the public that the government has a comprehensive plan to control this pandemic.

Q1: What is the total number of daily COVID-19 tests done by the Ministry of Health (MoH)  and what is the daily % of positive cases?

The daily focus has primarily been on the total number of new daily COVID-19 cases. While this number is important, we also need to know the total number of tests that are being done on a daily basis and the % of positive cases. This will give us an indication of (i) our testing capacity and (ii) the daily infection rate. According to a report in October 2020, Malaysia’s daily testing capacity then was approximately 54,000 but the average number of tests done was less than half this number.[1] If the daily testing capacity cannot be reached because of human resource shortages, the private sector (which is already doing their own tests) can be roped in to address this gap. Daily testing by the state will also be able to show shortages in the number of test kits in places like Sabah, for example.

Knowing the daily infection rate is also a useful indicator of infection trends moving forward. There have been many calls for the DG to make known the daily testing figures but until now, for reasons unknown, this figure has not been disclosed on a daily basis.

Q2: What is the number of contact tracers used by MoH? What measures have been put in place to address shortfalls in contact tracers?

As the number of daily cases spiked to more than 1000, it was not surprising that the contact tracers would be overwhelmed. Over the past few weeks, reports have surfaced on how some families who have tested positive for COVID-19 had to wait for days before someone from MoH contacted them. Earlier this month, my colleague and former Deputy Health Minister, Dr. Lee Boon Chye, asked for an additional 10,000 contact tracers to be hired on a temporary basis to deal with the spike in the number of COVID-19 cases.[2] There has been little disclosure on the number of contact tracers used by the MoH and even less discussion on the need to hire more contact tracers by the government. Without a proper contact tracing infrastructure, our ability to contain this pandemic even after the end of MCO 2.0 will remain in question.

Q3: Can more accurate location information about COVID-19 cases be disclosed publicly?

To date, the MoH has been very reluctant to provide more accurate location information for new COVID-19 cases. According to official reasoning, the government doesn’t want to cause a public panic in places where positive COVID-19 cases have been identified. But at the same time, the DG has been asking the public to avoid crowded places. A more transparent and effective strategy would be for more accurate location information to be provided to the public so that they can stay informed. Without any official confirmation, unnecessary speculation about the exact location of new cases cannot be prevented. New sites such as Malaysiakini already provide a daily report of places with new COVID-19 cases but this list is not verified by MoH.[3] More transparent sharing of data would enable the public to make more well-informed choices about where to visit and where not to visit, especially after the end of MCO 2.0.

Q4: What transmission trends can be analysed based on MySejahtera data?

As of the 19th of November, 2020, the Ministry of Health has recorded 1.7 billion check-ins by users via the MySejahtera app (with an average of 15m daily check-ins) including for those COViD 19 positive patients.[4] But until now, we are not aware of whether this massive database has been analysed for transmission trends. For example, are the transmission rates higher in certain places such as gyms and restaurants compared to optometrists and hair salons? Once a factory cluster has been identified, what transmission mechanisms are most likely to cause community spread in the affected area?

We need to know this analysis in order to determine which businesses should be allowed to open during an MCO. We also need this information in order to improve and enhance our existing SOPs to reduce transmission rates. As of now, nobody is quite sure, if and how the data from the MySejahtera application is being analysed and processed. This is one of the reasons why, for example, there is still uncertainty as to whether hair salons and optometrists should be allowed to operate during MCO 2.0.

Q5: What is the capacity in terms of the number of beds available and the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) capacity by the state?

To date, there has not been daily data released to show the capacity of beds available for COVID-19 patients as well as the total ICU capacity. Ideally, this information should be given by the state so that there is public transparency over existing hospital capacity and what additional steps need to be done to address shortages in this capacity. This would include the need to rope in private healthcare facilities to take in COVID-19 patients (if necessary). The possibility of asking patients with no or mild symptoms to stay at home to quarantine should also be discussed in light of shortages in hospital beds. We only hear about the lack of capacity recently with the Prime Minister’s announcement that our healthcare system is at a ‘breaking point’ in terms of ICU and non-ICU bed utilisation rates.[5] Why isn’t this information included as part and parcel of the DG’s COVID-19 briefing and press statement?

Q6: What were the COVID-19 transmission rates in schools when there was face to face classes in 2020?

One of the biggest challenges faced by parents in 2020 is the shutting down of schools due to COVID 19. The decision by the Ministry of Education to shut down all primary and secondary schools until the end of 2020 seems like a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach that does not take into account variances in COVID cases across districts and states. As important, MOE has not disclosed any data or analysis with regards to transmission rates within schools.

The information which has been released by the Ministry of Health tells us nothing about how children of a school going age may have gotten the virus. Indeed, the manner in which some data has been released by MOH and reported in the news seems misleading. For example, in a statement on the 23rd of June 2020, the DG of Health said that one of five COVID 19 or 20% of patients in Malaysia is 18 years and below.[6] On the 22nd of October, the DG was reported to have said that more than 1,000 school-going children were infected with the virus since the start of the 3rd wave from the 20th of September to the 21st of October. During this time, it was reported that 587 cases involved pupils aged from 7 to 12, and 670 cases involved students aged 13 to 18.[7]

These reports seem to give the indication that the students contacted COVID while attending school. This will inevitably stoke unnecessary fears among parents who may have 2nd thoughts about sending their children to school.

What do international studies and benchmarks tell us?

In an update date 21st of October 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) made the following conclusions among COVID transmissions in schools:[8]

  • There were few outbreaks reported in schools since early 2020 and in most COVID 19 cases reported in children, the transmission occurred at home
  • More outbreaks were reported in secondary/high schools than in primary/elementary schools
  • In school outbreaks, it was more likely that the virus was introduced by adults rather than by other children.
  • School outbreaks were only high when the incidence of local / community transmission was high.

The same WHO study also recommended that schools be closed when there is no other alternative because of the negative effects of school closure especially on marginalized children who may drop out of school and who may be deprived of school-based services such as school meals and mental health support.

In a publication on the 14th of September, the WHO, UNICEF, and UNESCO wrote that “decisions on full or partial closure or reopening should be taken at a local administrative level, based on the local level of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and the local risk assessment, as well as how much the reopening of education settings might increase transmission in the community”.[9]

If schools are to re-open for face to face classes in the RMCO and CMCO states on the 20th of January, 2021, MoH and MOE have to disclose data publicly in order to convince parents that it is safe to send their kids to schools.

Q7: Housing situation for foreign workers in the security, manufacturing and construction industries?

One of the main transmission channels for the COVID-19 virus has undoubtedly been dormitories which house foreign workers who work as security guards, construction workers and factory workers. Some of the glove manufacturers with a high number of COVID-19 cases were asked to shut down ‘in stages’ but were allowed to re-open after their workers were tested. But thus far, there has not been any concrete policy announced by the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Human Resources to force employers to provide for less cramped accommodation for the sectors with the most number of COVID-19 cases. There has also not been a coherent testing policy announced for the construction and manufacturing sectors. There MUST be such policies put in place in order to keep the COVID 19 transmission rates low, especially after MCO 2.0 is lifted. Without proper testing and accommodation policies for these foreign workers, it is less likely that COVID-19 infection rates can be controlled after the lifting of MCO 2.0

Q8: What is the Rt Value by state and why isn’t this figure publicly available?

MoH publishes the daily Rt value for the entire country on its COVID-19 website.[10] This figure currently stands at 1.17. Any value above 1 means that the number of cases is expected to grow and any number less than 1 means that the virus is under control and the number of cases can be expected to decrease over time. It would also be useful for MoH to publish daily Rt values for each state in Malaysia so that there is more clarity on which states are performing better and which states are doing worse from an infection control standpoint. The Rt value by the state can and should also be used as an indicator on when an MCO should be declared for a state and when it should be changed to a CMCO or an RMCO. For an even more targeted approach, the Rt value can be used for individual areas within a state. The Rt value by the state clearly exists since DG Noor Hisham has referred to it in one of his Facebook posts on the 20th of December, 2020.[11] Why not disclose the state by state figures on a regular basis?

Q9: How has the federal government worked with the respective state governments to fight COVID-19?

Thus far, the fight against COVID-19 seems to be one that is controlled and dictated mostly by the Federal government with the Ministry of Health, specifically the DG, taking the lead. There has been little coordination between the federal government and the respective state governments to join forces in the spirit of cooperation and solidarity. The former Minister of Health, Dr. Dzulkefly Ahmad, who is also the chair of the Selangor Taskforce on COVID-19 (STFC) has publicly called for more data sharing and cooperation with the Ministry of Health but so far, his calls have gone unheeded.[12] It is this kind of ‘silo’ mentality that has prevented Malaysia from using a ‘whole-of-government, whole-of-society’ approach to battle this pandemic. Will this kind of mentality change now that the number of COVID cases have spiked significantly, especially in the state of Selangor?

Q10: What are we doing differently now compared to March 2020?

My last and final question is simple. With nine months of experience in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, what lessons have we learned and what are we doing differently in MCO 2.0 compared to the first MCO? Do the plans which have been announced give the public confidence that the Ministry of Health and also the rest of the government are capable of bringing down the COVID-19 numbers without collapsing the economy?

There is little indication that this government has learned from the experiences of the past 9 months. Last minute SOPs issued AFTER the start of MCO 2.0, U-turns on which sectors can open e.g. the automotive manufacturing sector[13] and optometrists[14] and uncertainty over school re-opening[15] are just some examples of the failure of this government to prepare for MCO 2.0. As the adage goes, “if we fail to plan, we plan to fail”.
















Kenyataan Media Dr Ong Kian Ming, Ahli Parlimen Bangi dan Penolong Pengarah Pendidikan Politik Parti Tindakan Demokratik (DAP) pada 21 Oktober 2020

Kekeliruan dan Percangahhan di Antara MITI and Majlis Keselamatan Negara (MKN)

Pada 20 Oktober 2020, Menteri Kanan merangkap Menteri Pertahanan, Ismail Sabri, mengumumkan bahawa semua pekerja barisan pengurusan dan penyeliaan di sektor swasta dan awam akan Bekerja Dari Rumah (BDR) mulai 22 Oktober 2020. Sejak pengumuman ini, telah terjadi kekeliruan antara Kementerian Perdagangan Antarabangsa dan Industri (MITI) dan Majlis Keselamatan Nasional (MKN) mengenai dasar dan SOP untuk wilayah di bawah Perintah Kawalan Pergerakan Bersyarat (PKPB) iaitu di Lembah Klang dan Sabah. Pengumuman oleh kedua-dua Menteri, Azmin Ali dan Ismail Sabri, telah menimbulkan lebih banyak persoalan daripada memberi jawapan.

  1. Mana sektor dan industri yang perlu Bekerja Dari Rumah (BDR)?

Pemahaman awalnya adalah bahawa arahan ini akan melibatkan SEMUA sektor di sektor swasta. Ini berdasarkan kenyataan media yang dikeluarkan oleh Menteri MITI, Azmin Ali, pada 21 Oktober yang meruju kepada 3.1 juta pekerja di Lembah Klang dan Sabah yang bekerja di sektor pembuatan, perkhidmatan dan pembinaan. [1] 

Tetapi dalam sidang akhbarnya pada jam 6 petang 21 Oktober, Ismail Sabri menyatakan bahawa hanya “industri dan perkhidmatan awam” yang akan terlibat. Dia juga dilaporkan mengatakan bahawa sektor runcit tidak termasuk dalam “industri” dan ini bertentangan dengan kenyataan MITI yang dikeluarkan pada hari yang sama. [2]

2) Siapa sebenarnya barisan pengurusan dan penyeliaan? Apakah definisi MITI?

Banyak syarikat masih belum pasti siapa sebenarnya yang terdiri daripada barisan pengurusan dan penyelia. Ini sangat relevan di sektor perkhidmatan profesional di mana hampir semua orang di atas tahap kemasukan mempunyai sekurang-kurangnya beberapa tanggungjawab penyeliaan. MITI mungkin lebih biasa dengan sektor pembuatan di mana sebahagian besar kakitangan bekerja di kilang dan di mana nisbah penyelia dengan pekerja “blue-collar” sangat tinggi. Model yang sama tidak boleh digunakan dalam sektor perkhidmatan perakaunan, perundangan, IT dan kewangan kerana bilangan pekerja “white collar” adalah lebih tinggi.

3) Bagi 10% barisan pengurusan dan penyeliaan yang masuk pejabat untuk bekerja, apakah susunan kerja terperinci? (misalnya bekerja dalam shift, bekerja selama 4 jam tetapi tidak semestinya dari 10 pagi hingga 2 petang, dll.)

MITI mungkin mendapat tekanan dari dewan perdagangan dan kumpulan industry. Tekanan ini mungkin menyebabkan pihak MITI membenarkan 10% barisan pengurusan dan penyeliaan termasuk mereka yang mempunyai tanggungjawab dalam bidang perakaunan, kewangan, pentadbiran, perundangan, perancangan dan ICT untuk datang ke pejabat dari jam 10 pagi hingga 2 petang selama 3 hari dalam seminggu. Tidak dinyatakan sama ada syarikat dapat menyesuaikan waktu kerja ini misalyna dari jam 9 pagi hingga 1 tengah hari atau dari 12 tengah hari hingga 4 petang. Tidak jelas juga jika syarikat boleh menggilir kakitangan yang boleh masuk ke pejabat selama 4 jam sehari, 3 hari seminggu. Dalam wawancara dengan Astro Awani, Timbalan Ketua Setiausaha MITI, Norazman Ayob, menjelaskan bahawa syarikat-syarikat boleh memilih bagaimana mereka mahu menetapkan barisan pengurusan mereka untuk masuk ke pejabat secara bergilir tetapi ini tidak dimasukkan ke dalam kenyataan media MITI. [3]

Di samping itu, pengaturan kerja untuk staf penyeliaan ini tidak mengambil kira sektor pembuatan yang perlu mengoperasikan kilang mereka secara 24/7. Mengehadkan waktu bekerja dari pukul 10 pagi hingga 2 petang tidak sesuai untuk barisan penyeliaan yang harus menjaga “shift workers” pada waktu yang berbeza di kilang pembuatan.

4) Bagaimana dengan syarikat-syarikat yang tidak dapat berfungsi dengan baik jikalau hanya 10% barisan pengurusan dan penyeliaan bekerja di pejabat untuk hanya 4 jam selama 3 hari seminggu?

Arahan MITI hanya membenarkan 10% barisan pengurusan dan penyeliaan masuk ke pejabat untuk bekerja boleh menjejaskan operasi syarikat di sektor tertentu. Ini sangat relevan untuk sektor-sektor di mana barisan pengurusan dan penyelia perlu berinteraksi secara langsung (“face to face”) dengan pelanggan mereka misalnya dalam perkhidmatan kewangan dan penjualan.

Adakah MITI akan membuat pengecualian untuk sektor-sektor yang dapat menunjukkan bahawa mereka tidak dapat beroperasi dengan baik dengan hanya 10% barisan pengurusan dan penyeliaan yang bekerja di pejabat?

5) Bagaimana dengan perniagaan kecil yang pekerjanya kurang dari 10 orang?

Terdapat juga soalan yang ditujukan di media sosial MITI yang membangkitkan soalan mengenai syarikat yang mempunyai kurang daripada 10 kakitangan. Adakah ini bermaksud bahawa bagi syarikat-syarikat ini, tidak ada kakitangan pengurusan atau penyelia yang dapat bekerja di pejabat?

6) Adakah ujian swab bagi mereka yang masih harus pergi bekerja wajib? Atau hanya untuk mereka yang berada di zon merah? Atau hanya untuk kategori pekerja dalam industri tertentu?

Salah satu kekeliruan utama adalah sama ada kakitangan yang tidak dapat bekerja dari rumah perlu menjalani ujian swab sebelum datang ke pejabat untuk bekerja. Isu ini tidak dijawab dalam kenyataan media MITI. Kemudiannya ini diperjelaskan oleh Ismail Sabri dalam sidang medianya. Ujian swab COVID 19 hanya diwajibkan untuk pekerja di sektor pembinaan dan keselamatan dan pekerja yang menunjukkan gejala. Bagi pekerja di zon merah yang harus pergi ke pejabat, tidak wajib tetapi mereka sangat digalakkan untuk menjalani ujian swab. (Lihat Rajah 1 di bawah)

Oleh kerana penjelasan ini hanya dikeluarkan pada petang semalam, banyak syarikat telah membuat pengaturan agar kakitangan mereka diuji. Ini adalah kos tambahan bagi syarikat yang sudah mengalami tekanan kewangan kerana pandemi COVID.

Sebagai tambahan, bagi mereka yang ingin menuntut perbelanjaan ujian swab dari PERKESO (maksimum RM150 setiap ujian), mereka hanya boleh pergi ke SATU klinik panel di seluruh negara iaitu rangkaian klinik kesihatan BP. [4]Bilangan klinik panel harus ditingkatkan sehingga kesulitan dapat diminimumkan dan lebih banyak klinik dapat menawarkan perkhidmatan ujian COVID mereka.

7) Kawasan mana yang diklasifikasi sebagai zon merah?

Juga tidak jelas daerah / kawasan mana yang diklasifikasikan sebagai zon merah oleh Majlis Keselamatan Nasional (MKN) untuk tujuan ujian swab COVID. Sebagai contoh, Rajah 2 di bawah menunjukkan bahawa terdapat 5 daerah (“daerah) yang dianggap sebagai zon merah di Selangor – Petaling, Hulu Langat, Gombak, Klang, Sepang dan Kuala Langat.

Tetapi menurut Rajah 3 di bawah ini, tidak semua mukim diklasifikasikan sebagai zona merah di dalam daerah zon merah. Contohnya, mukim Kapar di daerah Klang adalah zon kuning dan hanya mukim Kajang di daerah Hulu Langat yang diklasifikasikan sebagai zon merah. Adakah ini bermaksud bahawa mereka yang berada di mukim Cheras di Hulu Langat (zon kuning) tidak digalakkan untuk menjalani ujian swab dan hanya mereka yang bekerja di mukim Kajang yang harus melakukan ujian swab?

Sebagai tambahan, adakah syarikat mengetahui batas sebenar daerah / mukim ini? Sebagai Ahli Parlimen Bangi, saya tidak 100% pasti di mana batas mukim Cheras di Hulu Langat bermula dan berakhir dan di mana sempadan mukim Kajang bermula dan berakhir. Saya cukup yakin bahawa banyak syarikat juga akan keliru tentang mukim mereka.

8) Apakah hukuman yang akan dikenaka untuk ketidakpatuhan?

MITI telah mengumumkan bahawa mereka akan melakukan pemeriksaan (“spot check”) ke atas syarikat untuk memastikan bahawa mereka mematuhi syarat yang diumumkan di bawah PKPB. Tetapi adakah adil untuk menghukum syarikat yang tidak dapat mematuhi syarat ini memandangkan kekurangan maklumat daripada pihak MITI dan juga kenyataan yang bercanggah antara MITI dan MKN? Saya berharap bahawa syarikat tidak akan dihukum kerana arahan yang tidak jelas daripada pihak MITI dan MKN.

9) Di manakah FAQ terperinci yang sepatutnya dikeluarkan oleh MITI?

Kenyataan MITI pada 21 Oktober menimbulkan lebih banyak persoalan daripada jawapan. Ini adalah sebab utama mengapa MITI seharusnya mengeluarkan Soalan Lazim (FAQ) terperinci untuk menjawab soalan khusus dari syarikat-syarikat yang menimbulkan soalan. Sebilangan jawapan nampaknya diberikan oleh Timbalan Ketua Setiausaha (TKSU) MITI, Norazman Ayob, semasa sesi dialog bersama industri pada 21 Oktober. Tetapi oleh kerana jawapan ini tidak disahkan oleh MITI, syarikat tidak dapat menganggap bahawa ini adalah pendirian rasmi kerajaan. MITI masih perlu berusaha untuk  menjawab soalan-soalan ini dengan mengeluarkan FAQ yang terperinci.

Kekeliruan dan kekurangnya dari segi penjelasan daripada pihak MITI dan MKN bermaksud bahawa majikan dan perniagaan akan beroperasi di bawah suasana kekeliruan apabila arahan PKPB ini bermula pada 22 Oktober 2020.