Sleepless nights worrying about Covid-19

We must remember that since Covid-19 does not discriminate, our response should not too.

– Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Prime Minister

Health Ministry director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah surprised me recently when he confessed he was facing a lot of pressure in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

During his daily press conference on Oct 28, he said he too — like the other healthcare officers and workers — was having sleepless nights.

“If you look at the issue of mental and physical fatigue, not only on the field but even in the health ministry itself, we are mentally and physically fatigued.

“This is because we have been fighting continuously without stopping for 10 months without a break. Sometimes at night, we cannot sleep because we have to think about all sorts of things and how to solve problems…,” said Dr Noor Hisham.

The endocrine surgeon has served as the director-general since March 2013. He became famous when he led Malaysia in the battle against Covid-19.

He has won many awards this year. For example, the China Global TV Network (CGTN) recognised him as among the top doctors of the world for his approach in handling the pandemic.

On July 4, he was awarded the ‘2019 Most Notable Alumni’ by his alma mater UKM’s medical faculty. Less than two weeks later, he received the BrandLaureate Award from the World Brand Foundation for Outstanding Brand Leadership 2020.

On August 19, 2020, Dr Noor Hisham received the national 2020AD/1442AH Maal Hijrah Figure Award.

Earlier this month, he appeared as an animated character along with characters from BoBoiBoy franchise in a one-minute public service announcement reminding Malaysians to take steps to prevent Covid-19. He was among the heroic trio named by the Singaporean news outlet, The Independent.

On Aug 17, Dr Noor Hisham was conferred the Darjah Panglima Setia Mahkota (PSM) award that carries the title of ‘Tan Sri’ by the King.

Although surprised, I was glad that the esteemed doctor chose to share his inner feelings and not just the good things in his life with the public.

Personally, I think it is important for all of us — when we are stressed — to share our feelings with others so that they can understand what we are going through.

Now, I know and realise life is not a bed of roses even for top doctors like Dr Noor Hisham. He always looked so cool and composed at the daily press conferences. Being a leader in any field is not easy but who would have thought he had problems sleeping at night because of Covid-19?

His sleepless nights also showed how responsible and caring he is.

As workers, we are often advised not to bring our work problems home. We are often told to separate work and our family/personal life. This advice apparently does not apply to Dr Noor Hisham.

On Oct 2, he announced that Malaysia was facing the third wave of infections.

Compared to many countries, Malaysia was doing quite well in its fight against the pandemic until after the recent Sabah election when there was a sudden surge in positive cases in the country.  

On Oct 30, Malaysia recorded 30,889 positive cases with 20,248 recovered cases and 249 deaths.

According to AFP, so far, the disease has infected more than 44.5 million people worldwide and killed nearly 1.2 million.

Living in Kuching City right now is no fun. It is quite frightening because Covid-19 lurks unseen. Kuching district has been declared a Covid-19 red zone again and is the only red zone in the state following the detection of 16 new local transmission cases on Oct 27. The last time Kuching was declared a red zone was on July 25.

Twelve out of the 16 new positive cases were detected in Kampung Haji Baki — prompting the enforcement of enhanced movement control order (EMCO) at the village from Oct 29 until Nov 11.  It is the first village in Kuching district to be placed under the EMCO.

Following the spike, all schools in Kuching are closed from Oct 30 to Nov 3. Entertainment centres, gyms and reflexology centres are closed until further notice while food outlets and bistros can now only operate from 6am to 10pm.

The spike in Covid-19 cases is worrying. Dr Noor Hisham has advised everyone to continue complying with the standard operating procedures to help flatten the curve.

He said the battle could not be won by just his ministry or the government alone but required the efforts of everyone.

Let us listen to Dr Noor Hisham so that he will not have sleepless nights anymore. Let us listen to him so that all of us will remain healthy and safe.