Safe for Johor election but expect rise in cases

As long as there is proper crowd control and strict adherence to the SOPs by everyone

by AZREEN HANI & AUFA MARDHIAH / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

MALAYSIA can expect Covid-19 cases to rise in upcoming months, but it is still safe for Johor election to be held, as the country is in a good position now in the pandemic management.

Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr Koh Kar Chai told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) that public ceramah during the campaigning period would be ok if there is proper crowd control and strict adherence to the prescribed standard operating procedures (SOPs).

“To ensure this, the political parties contesting need to ensure they responsibly choose an appropriate location, preferably outdoors or halls with proper ventilation, as venues to hold a ceramah,” he said when contacted yesterday.

“The authorities should also be clear on how enforcement will be carried out,” he added.

Dr Koh said house-to-house visits should be limited to just distribution of printed materials without going into the homes, and preferably without face-to-face interaction. There needs to be a constant reminder that face masks should be worn and physical distancing strictly observed throughout.

The Election Commission will meet on Feb 9 to discuss the date of Johor 16th state elections, while the National Security Council (NSC) will issue the poll’s SOPs, according to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

This is the fourth state election to be held in a pandemic era after Sabah, Melaka and Sarawak. There are safety and health concerns especially after Malaysia reported 5,439 new cases yesterday, with Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar declaring that the Omicron wave has begun in the country.

The infectivity rate in Johor is the third-highest nationwide at 1.12, compared to national’s rate of 1.13. There are more than 2.85 million total confirmed cases in the country yesterday.

Deputy Health Minister I Datuk Dr Noor Azam Ghazali also announced that the vaccination for children aged between five and 12 will begin on Feb 3.

However, Dr Koh stressed that we are in a good position now as over 80% of the population have been inoculated.

“MMA is also pleased to hear that all necessary preparations are being made for a possible surge in Covid-19 infections from the Omicron variant, as recently announced by the health DG,” he said, adding that the relaxed SOPs now will still have to be followed.

Meanwhile, public health specialist and epidemiologist and volunteers for community engagement and empowerment for Covid-19 chairman Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar also expressed a similar opinion.

“Taking into consideration the current situation, it is safe to conduct an election with conditions that the people abide by the SOPs set by NSC,” he told TMR.

“Based on the previous state elections in Melaka and Sarawak, we have a monitoring team on board to monitor voters’ SOPs compliance. The current health situation is stable with mostly infections of stage one and two.”

He also suggested online voting to be implemented in the future for the convenience and safety of voters.

“We are now in the IR4.0 era, it’s time we implement online voting. Moreover, now that teenagers aged 18 and above are allowed to vote, naturally the crowd will increase and the probability of infection will also increase.”

H&H Dinamik Sdn Bhd MD Mohd Akhir Ahmad proposed that the previous SOPs implemented during the Melaka state election be improved for the use of Johor state election.

“During voting time, the number of Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission staff on duty need to be increased to ensure that voters comply with the SOPs. Also, provide scheduling according to channel or locality for voters to go to the poll and vote while avoiding crowding,” he said to TMR.