I have been getting an earful from my sister Saro, a mother of two, every day over the past three days or so. So much so, I dread answering her phone calls. She is worried sick, bordering paranoia, over the infuenza h1n1 (I shall not glorify this disease by even putting its name in the upper case).
Her daughter, my niece, is in form 5 and goes to school in Bandar Sri Damansara. Apparently, the teachers in the school wear face masks but the pupils are not given any.
She refuses to allow my niece to go to school and makes her stay home. I am a parent myself, and I have been doing the same. I refuse to allow my eight-year-old daughter attend school. My son who completed his PMR trial exam yesterday is going to stay home too.
Like my sister, I am concerned about my kids. So I do take exception to the Minister of Health Datuk Liow Ting Lai's remarks that there is no point declaring a school holiday because school children will only go to places where they can catch the virus. I think his statement is an insult to every civic, right-thinking Malaysian.
As of today, Malaysia which only has a population of 27 million, recorded 56 h1n1-related deaths. Liow can say what he wants, but I think this is quite alarming. The population:h1n1-patient ratio in Malaysia is indeed high compared with other countries.
To date, India, which has a population of 1.14 billion only has 22 deaths. The authorities in Mumbai, where the highest number of cases were reported, have shutdown schools, colleges and cinemas. The did so at the risk of severely impacting the Bollywood movie industry. As we know, India churns out the most number of movies in the world and the movie industry is a major contributor to the country's GDP.
Mexico, where it all started, only recorded 163 deaths so far.
I think the Government of Malaysia must resort to drastic measures. The problem is compounded by the high number of dengue cases. Government hospitals are full to the corridors. We don't have enough doctors and nurses to handle the situation.
Worse, the Health Minister keeps saying that all those who died are within the "high-risk" group. Ironically, the number of diseases which fall under the high-risk category as given by the Health Ministry is growing by the day.
Obesity is the latest to join the list. Earlier, high-risk was just confined to diseases of the higher respiratory tract, including asthma, lung and perhaps heart diseases.
It seems to me that we are simply looking for excuses and now we are running out of them. Yesterday, a 19-year-old teenager died. I wonder what was his risk factor.
So Mr Minister, if I have piles (not that I do), will I be high-risk too?
My name is Mohd Ashraf Abdullah. I was born and raised in Tampin, Negeri Sembilan. I am a journalist at heart. I served the New Straits Times as a journalist for 17 years, beginning as a cadet reporter in 1988. I was trained to be a political writer. I served the NST in various capacities including as Staff Correspondent of the Kuantan Bureau and London Correspondent. I resigned as News Editor in 2004 to join Golden Hope Plantations Berhad as Deputy General Manager, Group Corporate Affairs. Two years later I was made General Manager, Group Corporate Affairs. When Golden Hope and Kumpulan Guthrie Berhad were merged with Sime Darby Berhad in November 2007, I chose not to accept the offer of employment by the merged entity. I was a scholar of the British Government and possess a Masters Degree in International Studies and Diplomacy from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. I am also a Jefferson's Fellow of the East West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.