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40 deg C threshold too high: Doctors

M'sia's 'heatwave emergency' plan

The Malaysian government's decision to declare a "heatwave emergency" only when temperatures hit 40 deg C for seven consecutive days has medical practitioners hot under the collar.

Dr Raj Kumar Maharajah, vice-president of the Medical Practitioners Coalition Association of Malaysia, said he was puzzled.

He said: "Our country's average temperature is 31 deg C to 33 deg C. When there is a 5 deg C increase, the government should already be declaring a heatwave emergency.

"They don't need to wait till it hits 40 deg C."

Dr Raj felt that schools should be closed if the temperature remains at the current temperatures of 37 to 38 deg C, The Star reported.

"It is better to close schools because most Malaysian schools are not air-conditioned," he said, adding that students might suffer heat exhaustion and cramps.

Malaysian Medical Association president Ashok Zachariah Phi­lip said: "The government should provide specific measures on what they will do instead of just declaring such a statement."

However, he did not see a need for schools to be closed because of the heatwave.

Dr Ashok advised Malaysians to stay indoors, drink enough water, wear protective clothing and use sunblock.

Natural Resources and Environment Minis­ter Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said a first warning would be issued if temperatures reach or exceed 37 deg C for 72 hours.

He said: "When the first warning is issued, we will order the postponement of outdoor activities at schools, such as extra-curricular activities, cross-country events or camping.

"The Ministry of Youth and Sports will order outdoor sports activities and athletics training sessions to be postponed, held indoors or held at night."

SECOND WARNING

"If it stays at above 37 deg C for more than 72 hours, a second warning will be issued. Schools in these areas will be ordered closed," he said.

These are among the measures in a new heatwave "action plan" that was approved by the Cabinet on Friday.

Dr Wan Junaidi said the Cabinet had approved the setting up of a special committee on the heatwave, which he will chair.

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