Malaysia wants further discussion of amendments to International Health Regulations, says KJ

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia is not rejecting the United States' proposal to amend the International Health Regulations (IHR) at the World Health Organisation's (WHO) annual assembly, but would like it to be discussed further, says Khairy Jamaluddin.

The Health Minister said the United States should have conducted more discussions with WHO member countries, including Malaysia, before making proposals to amend the IHR at the 75th World Health Assembly (WHA).

"We have many reservations that require more discussion and fine-tuning," he told a virtual press conference at the sidelines of the WHA in Geneva, Switzerland on Thursday (May 26) evening.

Khairy gave the example of the US' proposal to amend Articles 9 and 10 of the IHR, that gives the WHO powers to assess alleged global health risks by relying on information given by third parties, and the states concerned only have 24 hours to verify such information.

"Malaysia and several countries are of the opinion that WHO must inform the country prior to any action being taken.

"If there are reports from NGOs in the field that the government wasn't told about, this would be very unfair," said Khairy.

He said Malaysia is of the opinion that a country's sovereignty must be prioritised.

Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah and Khairy are currently in Geneva for the WHA from May 22 to 28.

Khairy has been appointed as one of the five vice presidents of the 75th WHA along with candidates from Bulgaria, Indonesia, Togo and the United States.

On Wednesday (May 25), Botswana, which represented a group of African countries, raised an objection towards the US' proposal to amend the IHR.

Several other countries, including Malaysia and Iran, have also expressed reservations about the amendments.

The IHR sets out a legally binding obligation on outbreaks on WHO's 194 members.

The United States has proposed 13 amendments to the IHR to authorise the deployment of expert teams to contamination sites and the creation of a new compliance committee to monitor the implementation of rules.

The WHA, an annual event by WHO, is expected to officially launch discussions to reform the IHR, which will be implemented for up to two years.

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