Covid-19 frontliners’ kids not being singled out, says Dr Noor Hisham of special childcare centres

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah speaks during a press conference on Covid-19 in Putrajaya May 25, 2020. — Picture by Choo Choy May
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah speaks during a press conference on Covid-19 in Putrajaya May 25, 2020. — Picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, May 25 — The children of Health Ministry (MOH) staff who work as Covid-19 frontliners are not being discriminated against, with plans to open special childcare centres for them, but such measures will be to give them special attention, Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah explained today.

Dr Noor Hisham pointed out that the Health Ministry’s Covid-19 frontliners or those who work at hospitals have been identified as one of the eight target groups due to their exposure to viruses including Covid-19, noting that they themselves take precautions to keep their children safe.

“For us who work in hospitals, we are always reminded, when we go home, we don’t touch our children straightaway, we clean ourselves first before we touch our children, because there is a possibility that we carry the infections,” he said in a press conference.

“For childcare centres, it’s not that we practise discrimination, so the Health Ministry has no discrimination in giving treatment, so what we emphasise is risk,” he said, noting that both family members of Covid-19 patients and the ministry’s frontliners are considered as high-risk groups.

Citing the US’ Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for childcare centres, Dr Noor Hisham said what was needed was not “discrimination” or the blocking of children from going to such centres, but said instead that a special place can be dedicated to Covid-19 frontliners’ children.

He noted that there would be no problem if a childcare centre is at a hospital, as the children of healthcare workers are all from the same group.

“But if we mingle with other children, we have to dedicate a place for them, so not to segregate but we have a place specially for the Health Ministry’s healthcare workers’ children. That is what we emphasise, we give special attention or special monitoring to the children of MOH’s frontliners,” he said, acknowledging that it may appear as if the Covid-19 frontliners’ children are being isolated but stressed that it was merely to give them special attention.

Dr Noor Hisham was weighing in on reports of the Health Ministry’s proposals to set up special childcare centres for children of Covid-19 frontliners and dispelling the notion that such an idea would amount to discrimination.

Dr Noor Hisham, however, said that the rules or standard operating procedures for childcare centres have yet to be presented to the National Security Council (NSC), adding that it will need approval before it can be implemented.

“So in MOH, there’s no discrimination from the aspect of us giving treatment, whether it is citizens or foreigners, whether adult or child, whether it is MOH frontliners or not, so I think this should be presented to the NSC first before we can approve to implement,” he said.

Today, Deputy Health Minister Datuk Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali reportedly noted complaints from Covid-19 frontliners who were unable to send their children to childcare centres due to other parents being concerned of the risk of infection to their children, before going on to suggest special childcare centres for Covid-19 frontliners’ children to be established with SOPs by the Health Ministry.