THERE is no need to include Influenza A in the list of infectious diseases, which allows for quarantine leave to be provided.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said the current situation had not mandated such a measure.
“Nonetheless, the ministry had considered the suggestion and would discuss it while monitoring the situation in the country.
“At present, there is no need for it,” he said after attending the Blood Donation Drive by Srikandi Tun Fatimah STJ’73 at Surau Al-Ikhlasiah Keramat Jaya here yesterday.
On Friday, National Union of the Teaching Profession secretary-general Harry Tan Huat Hock urged the government to add Influenza A to the list of six infectious diseases.
Tan said this was due to the spread of the Influenza A virus in the country.
Therefore quarantine leave should be given to infected teachers and students.
Based on a circular issued in 2016 on the provision of quarantine leave, Tan said the six infectious diseases on the list were hand, foot and mouth disease; dengue fever and dengue haemorrhagic fever; measles, chickenpox, diphtheria and malaria.
Dr Dzulkefly dismissed claims that there were not enough beds at government hospitals, forcing Influenza A patients to be turned away.
“We have said that this situation (lack of beds) could occur, but not all with influenza symptoms have to be warded.”
The ministry, he said, would continue to monitor the development, especially at entry points of the country.
Dr Dzulkefly said an increase in influenza cases was not related to the pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan, China.
Meanwhile, he welcomed the move by the Housing and Local Government Ministry to set up special smoking areas within commercial areas and food courts.
He said the special smoking areas, however, must comply with the regulation of being 3m away from the eateries.
“We have no problem at all since we are unable to provide such facilities to smokers.
“(But) It must comply with the 3m regulation.”
Dr Dzulkefly was commenting on calls by certain quarters for the government to review the idea as it defeats the government’s goal of reducing smoking.
On Friday, Malaysian Public Health Medicine Specialist Association president Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar called on the government to review its proposal to set up special smoking zones in public places at a cost of RM1 million.
The move, said Dr Zainal, was not in line with Malaysia’s goal of becoming a smoke-free nation by 2045.
He had described such a move as unnecessary as smokers were restricted from lighting up at only 23 gazetted areas, such as eateries, air-conditioned shops, hospitals and government premises.
Dr Zainal said the allocation for setting up smoking areas should instead be used for smokers’ rehabilitation programmes or treatment of diseases caused by smoking.
Dr Dzulkefly said the ministry had never treated smokers as adversaries.
“There are people who still want to smoke and we just want them to observe the regulations.”
On Jan 7, Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin said the local authorities could apply for an allocation from the ministry to set up special smoking areas in public places.
Zuraida said RM1 million had been allocated for the purpose and all 155 local authorities across the country can build designated smoking areas within commercial areas and food courts under their jurisdiction.
She said the move was to satisfy smokers and show that the government was concerned about their plight
As for owners of food premises who want to set up smoking areas at their own expense, Zuraida said they need to obtain permission from the local authorities.
The smoking ban was first implemented on Jan 1 last year at all restaurants, air-conditioned restaurants and open stalls.
Smokers, however, were allowed to smoke 3m outside the restaurant.
On Jan 1 this year, a full ban on smoking was enforced at eateries with a maximum compound of up to RM350.