Conduct science-based COVID-19 interventions

The Academy of Medicine of Malaysia calls for science-based strategies in combating COVID-19 and strongly supports Professor Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman’s statement that the resources used on the outdoor disinfection exercise would be better spent elsewhere.

The AMM stands with its members, Professor Dr Adeeba and Professor Datuk Dr Lokman Hakim, as well as the Malaysian Public Health Physicians Association in calling for science-based strategies for fighting COVID-19.

The government must prioritize anti-COVID-19 interventions that will help reduce the number of cases, protect our hospitals and intensive care facilities during this two-week total lockdown, and allow our healthcare professionals (HCP) and front-liners a breather respite.

Moreover, ministers are expected to be prudent in their spending to achieve the best possible outcomes with minimal expenditures and diminishing fiscal reserves.

It is therefore very disturbing to see that the national disinfection exercise which was first heavily criticized 15 months ago by local experts is being repeated.

In fact, the United States Center for Diseases Control (CDC) debunked the public sanitization approach, stating: “Spraying cleaning products or disinfectants in outdoor areas such as on sidewalks, roads or ground cover is not necessary, effective or recommended.”

Furthermore, the World Health Organization (WHO) has alerted to the hazards of this public disinfection exercise as early as 16 May 2020, noting: “Spraying or fogging of certain chemicals such as formaldehyde, chlorine-based agent or quaternary ammonium is not recommended due to adverse health effects.”

We hope the Ministry of Health would update its “Garis Panduan Pembersihan dan Disinfeksi di Tempat Awam” to reflect this.

In this context of evolving scientific evidence vis-à-vis public health management of COVID-19, there should be a whole-of-government effort to produce ventilation guidelines for all indoor spaces.

Both the CDC and WHO have acknowledged that COVID-19 is an airborne virus. This has led to the creation of ventilation guidelines in many countries, including Singapore.

Many commercial and residential buildings in Malaysia may indeed require updating to meet new standards and we must seize this time of a total lockdown to make the necessary improvements so that we can exit this pandemic once and for all.

We, the undersigned:

Academy of Medicine of Malaysia (Professor Dr Rosmawati Mohamed, Master)

College of Anaesthesiologists (Dato Dr Jahizah Hassan, President)

College of Dental Specialists (Professor Dato’ Dr Lian Chin Boon, President)

College of Emergency Physicians (Dr Ridzuan Dato’ Mohd Isa, President)

College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (Professor Datuk Dr Siti Zawiah Omar, President)

College of Ophthalmologists (Dr Nur Fariza Ngah, President)

College of Paediatrics (Professor Dr Thong Meow Keong, President)

College of Pathologists (Professor Dr Cheong Soon Keng, President)

College of Physicians (Dr Letchuman Ramanathan, President)

College of Public Health Medicine (Dato’ Indera Dr Sha’ari Ngadiman, President)

College of Radiology (Professor Dr Norlisah Ramli, President)

College of Surgeons (Professor Dr Lim Kean Ghee, President)

(The Academy of Medicine of Malaysia, embracing 11 Colleges and 15 Chapters, is a registered body representing medical specialists in Malaysia.)

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