PETALING JAYA: A total ban on physical campaigning during the Melaka state election is necessary to prevent another surge of Covid-19 cases, says the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA).
Its president Dr Koh Kar Chai said all campaign activities should be done virtually for the best interests of the people because “we are still not out of the woods”.
“We strongly advise against the traditional way of political campaigning as any physical, face-to-face meetings between politicians and the people can lead to increased close contact and spread of Covid-19 in the state and even nationwide now that interstate travel is allowed.
“In the best interest of the people’s health and safety, the usual ‘old norm’ of political campaigning, which involves house visits, gatherings and ceramah should be avoided.
“We may be in the recovery phase but we are still not out of the woods. Therefore digital or virtual platforms should be used to campaign in order to prevent another surge of Covid-19,” he said in a statement on Wednesday (Oct 20).
He added that if politicians truly have the best interests of the people at heart, they should show it by choosing campaigning channels that are safe and will not put the people at risk.
He noted that even though the national vaccination rate is at over 90%, the virus is still spreading among the fully vaccinated, who can transmit the disease to high-risk individuals and children below 12 who cannot be vaccinated yet.
This, he said, was important as Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah had also expressed concern that new variants could emerge from increased close contact during the campaigning period.
Citing the example of last year's Sabah state polls that caused the third wave of Covid-19 in the country last year, Dr Koh cautioned that it may be insufficient to just have strict standard operating procedures (SOP) in place.
“Although the authorities have given the assurance that strict SOP will be in place, the question we should also be asking is, who will be responsible if cases surge again in Melaka?
“The mistakes and failures to control the spread of Covid-19 during the Sabah state elections must not be repeated in Melaka.
“There has to be, and we must all insist on, full accountability this time around. What we don't need now is another surge in cases,” he added.
Melaka is set to go to the polls on Nov 20 following the Oct 4 dissolution of the state legislative assembly.
Nomination day is set on Nov 8, followed by 12 days of campaigning.
To avoid a potential surge in Covid-19 cases in the aftermath of the Melaka state polls, Dr Noor Hisham said on Tuesday (Oct 19) that strict compliance with SOP is a must and hopefully, no “surprise” new variants will show up.
He said the Health Ministry would observe the situation closely.
As for the SOP for the state election, he said the ministry will be advising the National Security Council (NSC) and it will release the guidelines once they have been presented and discussed.
Election Commission chairman Datuk Abdul Ghani Salleh also said that Covid-19 prevention guidelines for the Melaka state polls would be based on views and advice from the NSC, Health Ministry and police.