Rais’ callous statement on A(H1N1) alarming

Prof Dr Mohd Tajuddin Rasdi

I wish to comment on the statement made by Datuk Rais Yatim with respect to the issue of the rapidly spreading H1N1 virus and the increasing deaths daily due to it’s effect.

Rais said that Malaysians should not be alarmed or be an alarmist because Britain had 350 deaths and they did not ‘panic’ or ‘raise the alarm’.

With due respect to the learned minister, I view all life as precious. I do not let numbers like 10 or 350 deaths guide me in making a decision.

After the first death of our children from the national service camp fiasco, I had already raised the alarm, but it took almost 20 deaths until the authorities got their act together a little.

Are Malaysian lives so cheap to the minister? It seems he will be able to stomach 350 deaths before ‘raising any alarm’? An angry colleague of mine even suggested that since Tamiflu vaccine is limited it is reserved for the ‘higher ups’ and not for us ordinary Malaysians.

It is this kind of attitude toward handling this crisis which is actually ‘alarming’ me, a father of five children and a professor with 400 students to look after.

Another thing that alarms me is the way the press have been reporting the deaths, suggesting that only a certain ‘high risk’ group is susceptible.

I can see a similar pattern in the reporting of the national service deaths when the press made suggestion that the deceased were fat, had asthma, intestinal disorder or some other prior ailment. The modus operandi seems similar.

I still remember another inister who callously mention that deaths at the national service camps were merely zero point something and so should not be of concern. Again with the numbers.

As and academic I know the value of numbers but I never let statistic interfere with decisions about deaths and children or with any other living humans.

When the first H1N1 case was detected, we should have arrested the problem then by stepping up security and having tests at all transportation hubs.

We could have suspended schools and colleges and close public places like shopping malls and restrict their access for a week. Yes business will suffer a little so government should announce tax breaks or subsidise rentals or whatever for just a week.
Now it is still not too late to raise the alarm and suspend all public gatherings and spaces for, I think, three weeks. We should suspend the PMR trial examinations and bring forward the school holidays.

My wife who is a teacher still reports parents sending sick children to school. Why blame the parents? Do you think Malaysian parents are going to let their sick children stay home while their friends take the PMR trial or the SPM trial? These are Malaysians! Of course they will send (except me who has little faith in the Malaysian examination system).

I have suspended my children’s schooling for two weeks. I have ordered my daughters home from college by driving them by car and not to take the usual public transportation.

I have cancelled all my public talks, seminars and FRGS assessment for the next two weeks. I’m contemplating suspending my classes and merely communicating through facebook (but I’m not so good at it, but my daughters will help I think.) or making up in the classes in some other time or way with a one or two day seminar of sorts.

The point is, what is the government going to do? It is funny to hear the prime minister tell Malaysians not to attend public gathering or public spaces. What about our children in school? What about air conditioned offices?

I recommend that our millitary and Rela be activated and posted at all public spaces like shopping malls and transportation hubs with test kits. We should restrict access to essential spaces for food items so that the logistic of buying be manageable.

We should suspend all schooling and universities for three weeks. Governments must announce financial packages to help ease a little bit the inconvenience to commercial centers with tax breaks or other.

People who are being quarantined must be looked after with financial aid and a security team. My doctor mentions a husband who came to see him at a clinic and informed him that his wife was in the hospital with H1N1.

The doctor was shocked and ask why he was not quarantined? If this country does not treat this H1N1 as a MAJOR problem, and if the death toll reaches 350 as the minister would ‘like’, we are looking at a shut down of the country for six months with business suffering in the billions instead of a few million. Don’t ‘play-play’. When will we react, I wonder?

From:malaysiakini/letter

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