COVID-19: Transparency vital for business, public safety

IT is better for the public to know the premises and location of where COVID-19 cases are detected rather than keeping them in the dark.

Speaking to FocusM, Malaysia Retail Chain Association (MRCA) president Shirley Tay said such information is vital so the public can take their own precautions.

“Knowing is better than not knowing so that we can take extra precautionary measures to stay safe by avoiding such areas. A well informed community will act accordingly as required.

“We feel that such information should be disclosed to ensure safety and transparency,” she said.

Last week, Health Ministry director general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah announced that he would no longer reveal the names of premises where COVID-19 cases were detected.

The senior government official said he made the decision so that the public would not stigmatise the said establishment and cause panic.

The Malaysian Shopping Malls Association (PPK) lauded Noor Hisham’s decision to not disclose the names of establishments, adding that revealing the names of such premises would cause unnecessary panic and stigma not only against the establishments, but also the victim and those working there.

On stigmatisation and loss of business, Tay admitted that retail outlets may see their business drop to some extent during the early stages of detection.

However, she added that most business owners are responsible enough to take quick action by sanitising their premises and adhere to every guideline issued by the government.

Tay

“Making information public also gives confidence to all. The people would want to know that proper steps are taken,” said Tay.

She cited Singapore and South Korea as examples, where both nations managed to contain COVID-19 spread without the need to withhold information.

“So, it is against public interest for the government to withhold such information from public domain.

“We believe that, by maintaining transparency during this crisis, the current administration stands to earn higher public trust. Doing otherwise will be counterproductive in the country’s battle against COVID-19,” said Tay.

Withhold data and fake news will soar

Echoing Tay’s sentiments, Malaysian Public Health Physicians Association (PPPKAM) president Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar dismissed ideas that premises would be stigmatised if they are known to have COVID-19 cases.

“COVID-19 is not a sexually transmitted disease where, unfortunately, there is stigma attached to it. Everyone on the planet knows about the pandemic and it has been going around for months,” he said.

Zainal added Noor Hisham was just making assumptions on stigmatisation.

“In fact, there is one COVID-19 cluster very near to where I live in Negeri Sembilan but I don’t see anyone panicking, he said.

The veteran health expert said such vital information was needed so the public can take their own precaution to protect themselves and their family members.

He also warned that withholding data from the public would cause fake news to spread, resulting in a bigger headache later on.

“It is better for the public to get information from official sources. If not, misinformation and disinformation will spread like wildfire.

“It is very important for the government and public to build trust with one other,” added Zainal. – Oct 26, 2020

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