Early preparedness vital in tackling infectious diseases

PETALING JAYA: Early preparedness has put Malaysia in good stead to face the Covid-19 pandemic, says Health Ministry disease control division director Dr Norhayati Rusli.

She said the country learned much from previous outbreaks of infectious diseases, citing examples of the Nipah virus in 1999 and the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003.

“Later, we had the influenza A (H1N1) virus outbreak in 2009.

“There was only a short gap between SARS and H1N1. Just imagine, we had to face two major outbreaks consecutively.

“So we have to be ready early in terms of human resources and our staff have the necessary experience and exposure before this,” she said during an interview with Astro Prima yesterday.

Recently, Dr Norhayati was named as one of four “generals” by Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah’s in the country’s Covid-19 battle.

Last year, she said experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) came to assess the preparedness and response of Malaysia towards infectious diseases and other health emergencies.

“Malaysia has been declared by the WHO as having achieved preparedness for all sorts of public health incidents.

“This is significant because it’s not just the Health Ministry but other agencies that also have to always be prepared to face any eventualities,” she said.

The Rapid Response Team and Rapid Assessment Team, she added, would be set up and mobilised immediately once there was an indication of an outbreak on the ground.

As such, Dr Norhayati said Malaysia was prepared to face Covid-19 when the virus struck the nation in March.

“When we face a certain situation like the ongoing pandemic, what is important is our preparedness.

“In terms of our human resources, we have also provided training and education on all possible incidents that might affect public health.

“We also look at our capacity such as our manpower in hospitals, health clinics, laboratories and entry points into the country,” she said, adding that the guidelines provided to all personnel would be reviewed from time to time.

Though the fight against Covid-19 has been long drawn out, Dr Norhayati said what kept the medical frontliners going was the common aim to keep Malaysians “safe and healthy”.

“Our goal is to protect the health of all citizens. It is not just for ourselves but also for our family members and the whole country.

“When we have the same goal, we will strive together to reach that common objective,” she said.

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