PETALING JAYA: The new MySejahtera application feature to track communicable diseases was lauded as a positive step forward to better protect Malaysians, say health experts.

Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia president Datuk Dr Kuljit Singh said the inclusion of the new feature was timely as the use of the MySejahtera app was now “part of daily life”.

“Health experts, policy makers and health authorities had previously mooted such tracking system even before the Covid-19 pandemic. However, there was no buy-in by the public for the need or use of such a system back then.

“It’s different today as the MySejahtera is now a public norm,” he said when contacted.

Dr Kuljit said it was also timely for the Health Ministry to introduce the new feature now.

“We must strike while the iron is still hot as it may be harder to introduce it to the public if done later,” he added.

He said the new feature would help the health authorities track and contain communicable diseases from the outset rather than when it was too late.

On Tuesday, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin announced via Twitter that Malaysians could now check for cases of infectious diseases in their immediate areas with the new “Infectious Disease Tracker” feature.

The feature will show the number of active cases of infectious diseases such as Covid-19, dengue, rabies, measles and hand, foot and mouth disease in the user’s vicinity.

The data can be found in the feature located on the MySejahtera home screen.

Universiti Malaya’s epidemiology and public health expert Prof Dr Sanjay Rampal described the new feature as a “good step forward” in leveraging the traction gained through the use of the MySejahtera app over the last two years.

“The ministry is increasing the MySejahtera functions to benefit the public.

“However, there is still much to learn from the new app function and a need to estimate its accuracy in the coming months,” he said.

Prof Sanjay said the bigger issues were that of transparency and trust with regard to the use of the new app feature.

“If the public do not trust the app, they will not use it. Trust is essential,” he said.

Prof Sanjay also said the government would need to further address public concerns on key issues such as data privacy and the use of geo-location data.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia health economics, hospital and health management’s Prof Dr Sharifa Ezat Wan Puteh lauded the inclusion of the new feature in the app.

“Personally, I had looked forward to this as we are in the age of IT, meta data and AI,” she said.

Although some sacrifices in data and individual privacy are needed, she said the benefit of the latest feature would be for the greater good of the people and public health.Prof Sharifa said while the use of GPS tracking to identify dengue hotspots and poor communities was previously done before, the new feature was a new approach in addressing public health care issues.

“The new feature would help in prevention and containment of communicable diseases in the future,” she said.

“It can even be used for vaccine mopping in affected areas and active case detection of diseases.”

However, Prof Sharifa said there must be public discipline in the use of the new feature if it is to be effective.