Health DG: Amendments to Act 342 should not be delayed


Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah. — Bernama photo

PUTRAJAYA (Dec 14): Amendments to the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 (Act 342) are important to be approved as soon as possible, to ensure continuity in enforcement and to increase its effectiveness in curbing the spread of Covid-19.

Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the Ministry of Health (MOH) was worried that if the debate in Parliament was prolonged, it might disrupt the MOH’s ongoing efforts in enforcing infectious disease control in the country.

“In 1988, when this Act was enacted, we did not take into account pandemics, but was more towards epidemic outbreaks, now it is time for us to review it, and what is more important is it being a deterrent.

“If we want to implement the Act of 1988, the maximum compound of RM1,000 to a multi million company, for example, is not going to be deterrent, they have no issue on the payment.

“I think there is no one size fits all, so we have divided it into (fines for) individuals and corporations,” he said in a media briefing session on the proposed amendment Bill here today.

Under the amendment to Section 25 of Act 342, the MOH has proposed that the value of the compound be increased from RM1,000 to RM1 million for a corporate body, while for individual offences, a fine of up to RM10,000 could be imposed, as compared to the current maximum of RM1,000.

Meanwhile, according to MOH Disease Control Division director Datuk Dr Norhayati Rusli, five amendments and five new provisions have been proposed by the ministry to improve Act 342.

She said the proposal involved Part I, Part IV, Part V, and Part VI of the Act, which included amendments on the interpretation of authorised officers as well as offences and penalties.

Providing an example of the amendment under Section 10, Dr Norhayati said the amendment would enable medical practitioners to notify the existence of any infectious disease in any premises even without confirming the diagnosis through laboratory tests.

“It is recommended that every medical practitioner who treats or finds out or has reason to believe or suspect the existence of any infectious disease in any premises, shall give notice of the existence of the infectious disease to the nearest health officer, as far as possible without delay, in any form determined by the director-general,” she said.

Through the amendment to Section 25, namely for the compounding of offences, she said it would allow officers from statutory bodies or local authorities to be empowered to issue compounds for offences committed.

According to Dr Norhayati, there is a new provision in Section 14A which empowers an officer to order any individual infected with an infectious disease to undergo quarantine.

“The proposed new provision in Section 15A, meanwhile, enables the use of the latest technology to control the movement of infected or suspected infected persons who are ordered to undergo isolation or quarantine,” he said.

Earlier today, Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali had tabled the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (Amendment) Bill 2021 for the first reading in the Dewan Rakyat.

Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in a statement posted on his Facebook later stated that Opposition MPs would not support the Bill after disagreeing with the value of the proposed amounts for the compounds. — Bernama