KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry has proposed that the fine for those found guilty of breaking standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place to battle Covid-19 be increased from the current RM1,000 to RM10,000.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the RM1,000 punishment under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342) may need to be reviewed to suit current needs.
"The Act was drafted in 1988. RM1,000 was probably reasonable then, but now we need to review that.
"We hope it can be pushed up to RM10,000. However, that is up to the parliamentarians (Dewan Rakyat) to decide," said Dr Noor Hisham.
He said the proposal to increase the maximum fine under Act 342 from RM1,000 to RM10,000 has already been submitted to Parliament. However, he noted that it will take time for the motion to be accepted.
He was speaking during a dialogue titled "Covid-19: Malaysia's Journey towards Flattening the Curve" at the Malaysian Healthcare Conference 2020 here, today.
Under Act 342, enforcement authorities can charge a person under Section 24, whereby upon conviction, the penalty for a first-time offender is up to two years' jail or a fine, or both.
Under Section 25, however, the director-general or any public officer can impose a compound of up to RM1,000.
Meanwhile, Dr Noor Hisham also referred to a motion tabled recently in the Dewan Rakyat for the maximum RM1,000 fine to be reduced to RM250.
Dr Noor Hisham said he disagreed with the move.
"Over the last two weeks in Parliament, they wanted to lower (the fine) to RM250. We disagree with that as it is a compoundable offence," he said.
On Aug 17, Kuching Member of Parliament Kelvin Yii submitted a motion to amend Act 342 to lower the RM1,000 fine for flouting the mandatory public mask-wearing requirement to RM250.
Yii had said that the current fine is too high and is a burden to the people, especially the poor, students and people with disabilities.
The following day, Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the government has no intention of lowering the maximum RM1,000 compound, saying that the fine is in place to protect society and not burden anyone.
Meanwhile, at the same event, Dr Noor Hisham was awarded the National Icon Lifetime Achievement Award For Leadership in Public Health by the KSI Strategic Institute for Asia Pacific.
In accepting the award, Dr Noor Hisham said the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic was a team effort.
"I'm not the sole person doing the job. There are frontliners working behind the scenes.
"For a 15-minute press conference, we have 150 people analysing the data. This is teamwork, not only within the Health Ministry but other ministries too," he said.
Dr Noor Hisham credited Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin for the latter's decision-making during the pandemic.
"I advise him and he makes the decisions. Do you credit the person as the advisor or do you credit the person making the decisions?
"If the prime minister said "No, I'm not going to listen to you," what's going to happen? It would be a disaster.
"I think the credit should go to the prime minister," he said.