Health DG denies Tiong’s accusation that he is afraid of dying

By S. Harrish

HEALTH Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has denied the accusation that he was afraid of dying from Covid-19 and he was avoiding visiting Sabah.

Speaking at his daily press briefing today, he said there was no issue of being afraid of death and he had been to Sabah in late August while his senior officers were also in Sabah recently.

“As Muslims, we accept death wherever (we are), regardless of whether it occurs on the ground or not,” he said in response to Bintulu MP Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing remarks in parliament.

He said the Health Ministry has been carrying out specific plans for Sabah, and had been to the state at the end of August to look at the management and preparedness for the Sabah elections.

He added that his deputy Dr Chong Chee Kheong and deputy director Jamilah Mahmood were also in Sabah recently to look at the situation and address the issues there.

Dr Noor Hisham added that difference of opinions can be there but what’s important was to break the chain of infections.

Meanwhile, Tiong issued a statement saying his remarks were not to maliciously attack Dr Noor Hisham but instead reflects the frustrations of frontliners and the people.

“As an elected representative, there is no reason why I cannot truthfully convey the grassroots’ dissatisfactions and bring constructive criticism to the table. It is clear that the pandemic is getting out of control,” he said.

He said there were human errors that led to negligence in the prevention and control of the pandemic in the country.

Citing Sabah, Tiong said affected areas should have been cordoned off, with mass screenings carried out immediately, rather than allowing potential carriers to wander around when a cluster was identified in October.

“When Sabah was facing a surge in Covid-19 cases, it was even plagued by a serious shortage of medical supplies, including PPE (personal protective equipment) like protective suits, face shields, face masks and sanitisers, among others,” he said.

Tiong said Noor Hisham should have gone to the ground to inspect the situation himself and “prescribe” the right measures for the situation instead of holding the daily press conferences.

“Apart from Sabah, there were also new clusters from Kedah, Penang and Selangor. How can this be explained? What is the problem?

“Several clusters were identified but these were not decisively contained, particularly the situation in Selangor,” he said.

“Instead of holding those daily press conferences, he should focus entirely on the pandemic prevention work and hand over giving daily updates to the Senior Minister for Defence.

“With the pandemic getting out of control, if this does not rest on the shoulders of the DG, why should he be the one to hold a press conference every day?” Tiong asked.