KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia must strengthen the healthcare system, invest in public health and continue promoting the use of the face mask even though the World Health Organisation has lifted the Covid-19 global health emergency.
Former Health director-genera Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, who played an instrumental role in managing the healthcare system and fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, said he believed the country must remain vigilant.
"The (WHO) announcement was about ending the Covid-19 global emergency. But locally, we should do the needful, like facing any other infection and outbreak.
"More importantly, every country needs to step up surveillance, strengthen the health system and invest more in public healthcare.
"We should continue to empower the public to protect themselves, including wearing a face mask if they experience Covid-19 symptoms," he told the New Sunday Times.
Dr Noor Hisham retired recently but has not stopped advocating Covid-19 preventive measures.
He said the fight against Covid-19 continued as the virus is still around.
Dr Noor Hisham, who was in Adelaide, Australia, recently for the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons 91st Annual Scientific Conference, reminded the public to frequently wash their hands and avoid crowded and confined spaces, if possible, and stay at home if they were symptomatic.
He expressed gratitude to frontliners and the nation for coming together to make the impossible possible.
He said: "Our response today is our preparation and preparedness for the future."
He thanked frontliners from the Health Ministry and other ministries for their tireless efforts in the fight against the pandemic.
"It shows when we are together, we can make a big difference in healthcare and saving lives.
"Gladly, the public health emergency of international concern is over.
"We brought up this issue to be addressed and discussed during the Standing Committee on Prevention, Preparedness and Response to Health Emergencies meeting in Geneva last month, which I chaired as the president. Right timing for my retirement."
He said although Covid-19 infections were less severe now, the risks to vulnerable populations were ever present.
Hence, high-risk groups and vulnerable people, including senior citizens and individuals with comorbidities, should take vaccine booster shots to improve protection against the virus, he said.