immediately wipe out the stigma of a country which manipulates SARS figures
and join the world fight against the new killer virus as a serious player in
view of the worsening outbreak with SARS toll shooting up from 62 yesterday
to at least 75 in less than 24 hours
by Lim Kit Siang
In less than 24 hours, the SARS outbreak has undergone a quantum leap for
the worse, with the death toll shooting up from 62 according to yesterday's
World Health Organisation (WHO) daily cumulative list of SARS cases to at
least 75 by midday Malaysian time - with international news agencies
reporting nine new SARS deaths in China in Guangdong in March, two more
deaths in Canada bringing the country toll total to six, a second death in
Thailand and a reported death in Malaysia.
In its SARS multi-country outbreak Update 16 yesterday
http://www.who.int/csr/don/2003_04_01/en/print.html, WHO reported a
cumulative total of 1,804 cases and 62 deaths from 15 countries, which was
an increase of 182 cases and 4 deaths compared with the previous day.
In less than 24 hours before its next daily update, there has been a quantum
jump to nearly 2,300 people infected with SARS and 75 deaths worldwide,
following the report from China of 361 SARS cases and nine deaths in
Guangdong in March.
Another ASEAN country, Indonesia, has today reported two suspected cases of
With the less than open, honest and transparent government policy on SARS
outbreak so far, Malaysia is in danger of being dubbed a rogue state which
hides or manipulates statistics about the new killer virus to downplay its
The government cannot afford to delay and must act decisively to immediately
wipe out the stigma of a country which manipulates SARS figures and join the
world fight against the new killer virus as a serious player in view of the
worsening of the SARS outbreak whose toll had shot up from 62 yesterday to
at least 75 in less than 24 hours.
As a first step, Malaysia must join the rank of countries in giving daily
SARS updates, as Malaysians are entitled to feel that they cannot protect
themselves in the absence of information.
In this connection, the Health Minister, Datuk Chua Jui Meng should rescind
the ban he imposed on state health directors from releasing any information
on SARS to the media, limiting such statements only to himself and the
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr. Mohamad Taha Arif or other health
officials assigned by them.
If Malaysia is serious about introducing an open, transparent and
responsible media policy on the SARS outbreak, giving full, accurate and
timely updates about the new killer virus, there should be no concentration
of power and no centralization of information but the reverse - further
devolution of power and decentralization of information to allow district
health officers to give latest updates about the SARS outbreak.
Lim Kit Siang, DAP National