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MOH recommends to postpone all meetings in Parliament for two weeks - Health DG

01/08/2021 10:43 PM

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 1 -- The Ministry of Health (MOH) has recommended for all meeting sessions in Parliament to be postponed for two weeks beginning July 29, following the detection of COVID-19 cases and concerns about the risk of infection.

Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah in a statement today said this included parliamentary select and special select committee meetings as well as brefings planned in Parliament or meetings involving individuals who were in the building from July 26 to 29.

“This proposal takes into account the results of the current risk assessment to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infection from occurring in Parliament. The risk assessment of COVID-19 infection in Parliament will be re-evaluated from time to time,” he said.

According to Dr Noor Hisham, all individuals who were in Parliament on July 26 to 29 were advised to monitor their health status using the MySejahtera application, and head to the nearest health facility in the event they experienced any symptoms.

He said environmental factors at the Parliament including the Parliament halls which were enclosed spaces, increased the risk of transmission of infection, as the virus was airborne and could remain in the environment for several hours.

Being in the hall and around Parliament for a long period of time, he said, increased the risk of repeated exposure, as would the sharing of basic facilities such as toilets, surau, and cafes by many individuals.

He said another factor was physical distancing, where although barriers had been placed between seats, the distance was still less than a metre, and small gatherings often took place inside and outside the hall.

Dr Noor Hisham said a total of 104 people were screened July 26 to 28 in Parliament through the RTK antigen (Ag) saliva self-screening test, and at 12.30 pm on July 29, MOH was informed of two positive COVID-19 cases who had been present at the Parliament building.

The first case was an officer who attended Parliament since July 26, and tested positive through RT PCR confirmation test at a health facility due to cough symptoms, while the second case was detected during screening in Parliament on the morning of July 29 using RTK antigen (Ag) saliva self-test kit, after suffering from cough and nausea.

Dr Noor Hisham said following the dectection of the two positive cases, the MOH took immediate action by conducting RTK Ag saliva self-screening tests on 1,183 individuals in Parliament, and found nine more COVID-19 positive cases.

This brought the total number of positive cases to 11 cases, namely one through the RT PCR test and 10 via the self-test kits, with five of them having symptoms, he said, adding that 48 close contacts had been identified so far.

He said on July 30, the Dewan Negara pre-conference screening was conducted on 100 individuals using the RT PCR test, and nine positive cases were found.

"Although the number of positive COVID-19 cases detected during the parliamentary session was 0.8 per cent, the risk assessment results taking into account epidemiological and environmental factors found that the parliamentary session is a high-risk gathering," he said.

Dr Noor Hisham said the MOH's risk assessment criteria included epidemiological factors. There were six cases with high infectivity rates and had the potential to become 'superspreaders'.

Another epidemiological factor, he said, was that the movement of the positive cases around Parliamentary building is likely to cause exposure to other individuals, many of whom were senior citizens and may have comorbidites, while not all individuals present in Parliament have been fully vaccinated.

He said taking into account the Special Parliament Sitting from July 26 to 29, 2021 involved many individuals gathering from all over the country, it posed a high risk of transmission, especially of the dangerous Delta variant, and the MOH was worried that the infection could spread in Parliament.

Dr Noor Hisham said before the special sitting began on July 26, he had held a meeting which was attended by the Deputy Prime Minister, Senior Foreign Minister, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Parliament and Law), Speaker and Deputy Speakers of the Dewan Rakyat as well as heads or senior representatives of political parties from the government and opposition.

“The MOH submitted two proposals (during the meeting), namely that the Special Parliament Sitting be postponed until the immunisation coverage was at least 40 per cent, especially in the Klang Valley. This took into account the increase in positive COVID-19 cases throughout Malaysia, especially in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Negeri Sembilan.

“... or if the Special Parliament Sitting is continued, the number of those physically present in Parliament is reduced and the duration of the session shortened, to reduce the period of exposure. It was proposed that the session should be stopped immediately if there is a positive case of COVID-19 detected to prevent the risk of infection among individuals present in Parliament," he said.

Yesterday, Dewan Rakyat secretary Nizam Mydin Bacha Mydin in a statement informed that the Special Meeting of the Third Session of the 14th Parliament scheduled on Aug 2, was postponed to a later date.

Today, Dewan Negara secretary Muhd Sujairi Abdullah issued a notice informing that the Special Meeting of the Dewan Negara scheduled to take place from Aug 3 to 5 (Tuesday to Thursday) had been postponed until further notice.


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