Health D-G warns of possible superspreader event in Parliament if sitting not postponed, with detection of six highly infectious individuals

Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah (Photo by Sam Fong/The Edge)

Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah (Photo by Sam Fong/The Edge)

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KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 1): A superspreader event could erupt in Parliament if the special parliamentary sitting is not postponed, warned Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah today, following the detection of six highly infectious individuals during the recent sitting.

In a statement, Dr Noor Hisham, who has called for an immediate suspension of all meetings there, said the Parliament has now been deemed a high-risk gathering for the spread of Covid-19, even though only 11 out of 1,183 people who attended the recent sitting have been found positive for the coronavirus.

"Although the total Covid-19 cases detected during this Parliament sitting were only 0.8%, the results of a risk assessment that considered the epidemiology and environmental factors present have concluded that the Parliament is a high-risk gathering that could lead to the spread of Covid-19," he said.

"There were six symptomatic cases with high infectivity rate (with low CT values) who carry the risk of spreading the disease with the potential of (the transmission) turning into a superspreader (event)," he added.

In addition to that, he noted that many of those who will be attending the special parliamentary sitting are senior citizens who may have co-morbidity factors that increase their risk of infection, while not all the individuals who attended Parliament previously had received their two-dose vaccination.

The Parliament's closed-door environment also increases the risk of infections, he added, considering the coronavirus can transmit via the air as well as stay in the environment for a few hours.

Last Thursday, the Dewan Rakyat's afternoon session was postponed three times before it was eventually adjourned to next Monday, after 11 Covid-19 cases were reported. 

However, it was reported yesterday that the special Parliament sitting has been adjourned until further notice, in line with suggestion by Dr Noor Hisham and the latest risk assessment by the Health Ministry that concluded that the Parliament was a locality at risk for possible transmissions.

Similarly, the Dewan Negara special sitting that was scheduled to run from Aug 3 to 5 has been postponed until further notice, according to a notice dated today issued by Dewan Negara secretary Muhd Sujairi Abdullah to Senate members.

According to Dr Noor Hisham, before the start of the special parliamentary sitting, the Health Ministry had proposed that the sitting be postponed until the vaccination rate, especially in the Klang Valley, hit 40%. Alternatively, Parliament would proceed — but with a reduced number of attendees and sitting time to limit exposure to possible infections — and for it to be immediately suspended if Covid-19 cases were found.

The second alternative was eventually chosen, Dr Noor Hisham said, during a July 26 meeting attended by both government and opposition representatives that was held prior to the start of the special parliamentary sitting.

"Given the risk assessment and to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in Parliament, the Health Ministry has proposed that all meetings, including those of the Selection Committee and parliamentary select committees, as well as any planned tabling or any meetings involving people who were at Parliament between July 26 and July 29, be postponed for two weeks from July 29," he said.

He also urged all individuals who were at Parliament between July 26 and 29 to monitor their own health and update their respective status on the MySejahtera application, and to go for testing and treatment at the nearest health facility if they experience any symptoms.

Read also:

Aug 2 Parliament sitting adjourned until further notice after area deemed risky Covid-19 locality

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Dewan Negara special sitting postponed due to Covid-19 risk