PETALING JAYA: Health experts tell Malaysians they can play a positive role to prevent fake news from exacerbating the novel coronavirus outbreak by not spreading rumours and unverified information.
The experts say they support the efforts of the Health Ministry in protecting Malaysians and are confident with the leadership in the ministry.
“As such, we urge the rakyat, politicians, media and stakeholders to act responsibly during this period.
“We understand the concerns of Malaysians who are worried about their health and their families’.
“However during this time, the best measure is to remain calm and obtain valid information from official sources, ” said the group in a joint statement issued by healthcare professionals and associations.
The statement was jointly issued by Dr Khor Swee Kheng, Tan Sri Dr Jemilah Mahmood, Universiti Malaya dean of faculty of medicine Prof Datuk Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia dean of faculty of medicine Prof Dr Raja Affendi Raja Ali, Public Health Specialist Association president Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar, Islamic Medical Association president Dr Jeffrey Abu Hassan and Ikram Health Malaysia chairman Dr Abdul Halim Shibghatullah.
The statement was also signed by Academy of Medicine Malaysia master Prof Dr Rosmawati Mohamed, Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society president Amrahi Buang, Malaysian Medical Association president Dr N. Ganabaskaran, Medical Mythbusters Malaysia president Dr Ahmad Firdaus Mohd Haris, Academy of Family Physicians Malaysia president Assoc Prof Dr Mohammad Husni Jamal, Malaysian Nurses’ Association president Sharipah Asiah Syed Junid Aljunid and Malaysian Association of Medical Assistants president Mustafa Abd Majid.
The group also urged Malaysians to follow the precautionary measures advised by the Health Ministry.
They added that Malaysia has strong and proven capabilities to handle outbreaks, and these efforts are commended by the World Health Organization.
“We ranked number 18 in the world in the Global Health Security Index compiled by the Johns Hopkins Centre for Health Security, ahead of Singapore and South Korea.
“A study in the British Medical Journal assessed Malaysia as the Most Prepared country for health security. Our health system is strong, safe and world-leading, ” they added.
The group said that Malaysia’s health service is among the best in the world and it was proven when healthcare professionals in the country managed to handle previous outbreaks such as the Nipah virus in 1998, SARS in 2003, MERS in 2014 and H1N1 in 2019.
The group said healthcare personnel work very hard daily to reduce dengue, tuberculosis, HIV as well as other serious diseases.
“Unfortunately, some Malaysians had acted irresponsibly by circulating rumours and false news on the social media platform.
“Our Yang di-Pertuan Agong (Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah) has instructed the rakyat to stop spreading rumours and controversies and to remain calm, ” said the group.
They added that the temporary travel restriction on Chinese citizens from Wuhan and Hubei is also one measure to manage the outbreak.
“We must remain calm, practise recommended hygiene and precautionary measures, seek medical attention if we feel unwell and restrict our own domestic and international travel, ” the group added.
They also urged Malaysians to get information from trusted and reliable sources, and be responsible on social media.
“Spreading rumours or false news is illegal and will distract the Health Ministry from important public health responses, ” they said.
The group said they also appreciate the courage, sacrifices and professionalism of Malaysian frontliners from the Health Ministry.
“Together with the Health Ministry, we must keep them safe and healthy as they keep Malaysians safe and healthy.
“We must fight this outbreak together and keep our unity and social harmony. As your health professionals, we trust the Health Ministry to lead us safely.”