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The Star newspaper must stop sending misleading signals


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The Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) finds it very disappointing that recently, the Star newspaper seemed to be intent on downplaying the seriousness of the current surge in Covid cases in the country.

The Star has taken to posting in prominent multi-coloured charts the breakdown into clinical categories of the Covid cases diagnosed the preceding day. Generally, the numbers of newly diagnosed patients in Category 4 and 5 are very low on the day of diagnosis – only 0.8% and 1.6% respectively for 24 July 2021. The chart on page six of the Star on 25 July 2021 is headlined “We are winning the vaccination game”.

But this gives a totally wrong impression of the severity of the current surge of Covid in the country. About 20% of Covid patients deteriorate to Category 4 and require supplemental oxygen over the first 10 days after their first symptoms, and 3% of unvaccinated people contracting Covid require ICU management, and about 1.5% of them die.

If the Star wants to give the breakdown of cases by clinical category, the Star should present the figures for the cohort of cases diagnosed three weeks previously. That would give a far better picture of the real health impact of the current surge.

It is important to present the real situation to the public because we still need people to avoid going out as much as possible, to double mask whenever going out, to stay way from crowded places, to sanitise hands frequently and to observe all social distancing protocols advised by the government. All these steps are required to bend the Covid incidence curve downwards while we work as hard as possible in getting people vaccinated. Highlighting data that misrepresents the health impact of Covid is undermining the Ministry of Health’s efforts to promote physical distancing. The Star paper should stop doing this. It is a disservice to its readers.

Clear information is always useful. I would suggest that the Star gives each day the breakdown of the cohort diagnosed three weeks previously by most serious clinical category reached by each member of that cohort, with a further breakdown between those who were fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated and unvaccinated. This is the granular data that will clearly show the benefit of getting the vaccine and the risks of remaining unvaccinated. It will help people make rational plans for the safety of their families.

So we urge the Star, whatever your reasons for the colourful charts giving the breakdown of newly diagnosed Covid cases by category, please stop the misinformation. – Think Left

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj, a long-time Aliran member and contributor, served as Member of Parliament for Sungai Siput from 2008 to 2018. A respiratory physician who was awarded a gold medal for community service, he is also a secretariat member of the Coalition Against Health Care Privatisation and chairperson of the Socialist Party of Malaysia.
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