KUALA LUMPUR: The health ministries of Malaysia and Singapore will form a joint working committee headed by the respective deputy ministers to manage the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
Malaysian Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said in a press conference on Tuesday (Feb 11) that the decision to set up the committee was made during a conference call involving senior officials from both countries.
The committee aims to consolidate various cross-border efforts, he said.
The two-way cooperation will focus on sharing information on public health, medicine and research to ensure that the outbreak is handled efficiently.
Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH) in a press release on Tuesday said that senior health officials from both countries will work closely together over the next few days to determine the composition and terms of reference of this joint-workgroup.
"Singapore has nominated Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health Dr Lam Pin Min to co-chair the joint working group," MOH added.
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Malaysia and Singapore will also scrutinise cross-border case screening and management, Dr Dzulkefly said.
In addition, both sides will coordinate on the use of antiviral drugs for patients who have been tested positive, he said.
He explained that the first meeting would be held once both deputy ministers find a mutually acceptable time.
When asked why Malaysia had decided to embark on such a bilateral initiative at this juncture, he said the committee was important as both countries are close to one another.
"We have got a historical relationship, we have got a good bilateral relationship ... We share the same causeway, there are hundreds of people travelling across each day for reasons of family, business and leisure, so all the more why we should strengthen and enhance our cooperation managing this coronavirus outbreak," he said.
MOH said on Tuesday that since the start of the outbreak, both countries have been in close touch with one another, including "expeditiously sharing information on cross-border cases".
"The cooperation would not have been possible without the strong collaboration and network built up over the years," MOH added.
On Tuesday, the minister said there were no new confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Malaysia, which means the total number of cases remained at 18.
Of the total, 12 are Chinese nationals and six are Malaysian citizens. At least seven cases in Malaysia are said to have travelled to Singapore.
Three patients, all of whom are Chinese nationals, have been discharged.