About 60% of confirmed cases and COVID-19 deaths in Malaysia are linked to the tabligh cluster. It is believed that there are thousands of attendees who have yet to come forward, despite the government’s pleas.
While it’s easy for us to point fingers at them and blame them for lying, we should also be looking at the reason why there has been so many cases of withheld information, despite the fact that it’s a crime that can land you in jail!
The social stigma is immense when it comes to being in attendance of the tabligh gathering. In fact, the social stigma surrounding anyone who has publicly tested positive for COVID-19 is immense, as shown by Case 26, Malaysia’s first “super-spreader”.
While authorities used Case 26 as an example of how quickly and easily the virus spreads, his identity was quickly exposed in rumoured Whatsapp texts with personal attacks, to the point where a public statement was necessary.
Case 136 faced severe backlash on social media as well, including cyberbullying and doxxing. His personal details have been revealed and his behaviour heavily critisized online. In fact, case 136 trended on Malaysian Twitter for a few days.
The kind of public outrage faced by these COVID-19 cases (who are still real people!) are daunting, and any possible future patient wouldn’t want to face the same kind of backlash, so many choose to hide their history instead.
Health Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has stated that the attendees are not to be blamed. After all, it’s not they knowingly spread the virus there, and just as many are victims themselves.
Let us not discriminate against the tabligh followers. What is important is that we help to detect and treat the Covid-19 infections among the tabligh followers, their families and their contacts.
DAP MP Hannah Yeoh has echoed Datuk Dr Noor Hisham’s sentiments as well. She urges Malaysians to show empathy to those who have been tested positive for COVID-19.
Stigma can deter others from getting themselves screened and seeking early treatment.DAP MP Hannah Yeoh on a Facebook post
Malaysia no longer has the luxury of time in dealing with the pandemic. This means that any possible case of COVID-19 must be brave and report to the authorities- and the rest of us should support them, not stigmatize them.
Anne is an advocate of sustainable living and the circular economy, and has managed to mum-nag the team into using reusable containers to tapau food. She is also a proud parent of 4 cats and 1 rabbit.