KUALA LUMPUR: Every time he receives a message from health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah and health minister Dr Adham Baba about the latest Covid-19 numbers, Ismail Sabri Yaakob can’t help but feel nervous, especially when it involves a spike in new cases and fatalities.
The senior minister for security, who has been appearing on television to update the people on Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) since the implementation of the first movement control order (MCO) on March 18 last year, takes the job of helping to flatten the Covid-19 curve very seriously.
“It has been a nerve-wracking experience for me. Just imagine, 3,000 cases, 4,000 cases, 5,000 cases. Of course, I was the one who was scared the most because it involves my job, that is flattening the infection curve.
“Similarly, when death is involved. It is something that cannot be accepted by anyone, even though everyone will die someday, but any death caused by Covid-19 is worse (because) we cannot pay our last respects or kiss the deceased and so on. That is an unforgettable episode,” he said in an interview here recently.
On the different SOPs between MCO 1.0 and MCO 2.0, Ismail said the government had to take the best path in finding a balance between containing Covid-19 and ensuring the survival of the people.
Furthermore, during the first MCO, Ismail said Malaysia did not have the data and experience, and there was no country that could be used as a reference in dealing with Covid-19.
“Now we are flexible because if we are too rigid, our economy will get worse and our people can no longer survive.
“The people’s economy is a priority for the government because we want to make sure food is on the table. We do not want the people to die because of Covid-19, but we also do not want our people to die of starvation.
“Now, after a year, we have complete scientific data as well as the experience,” he said.
Meanwhile, commenting on the Emergency (Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases) (Amendment) Ordinance 2021 which provides for a maximum fine of RM10,000 for individuals who violate SOPs effective March 11, Ismail said it was for repeat offenders.
In addition, he said those involved in serious offences that can cause the spread of infection, such as visiting entertainment centres, can also be fined up to RM10,000.
However, Ismail, who is also the defence minister, said the offender could appeal with the district health office (PKD) as the police only issued summonses.
“If you are caught for only not wearing a face mask, you will not be fined RM10,000. The health ministry is the one who will receive the payment. The police only issue the summons, so people can still appeal to reduce the fine. It can be RM1,000, or RM100, or even RM50. It is up to the health ministry officers at the PKD,” he said.
Leading the portfolio for a year now, the Bera MP said he has become immune to the brickbats hurled by netizens.
“As a politician, this is normal. We have to accept it as it is.
“This is because you cannot expect everyone to like you. Some like you, some don’t,” said the Umno vice-president, adding that netizens’ feedback and comments are sometimes also taken into account when deciding on the SOPs.