KUCHING (Sept 7): Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii has called on the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) to be transparent about their short-term and long-term plans to prepare the community for living with Covid-19.
He said the strategy and communications must be comprehensive and specific especially in view of the surge of cases in Sarawak to prepare the people and businesses for the new normal.
“Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has mentioned that Labuan and to a certain extent Sarawak are already in an endemic phase where we should start living with the virus.
“State ministers including SDMC advisor (Dato Sri) Dr Sim Kui Hian has mentioned a few times how we must learn to live with Covid-19. However, what they failed to do, is to communicate comprehensively, educate the public what that means,” he said in a statement yesterday.
The Democratic Action Party lawmaker thus asked: “What is the new normal when it comes to the endemic-style (living with Covid-19) strategy?”
He said SDMC must share their plans and strategies especially in view of the fundamentals of Find, Test, Trace, Isolate and Support (FTTIS) even during the endemic stage.
“With that said, I caution SDMC and MOH from shifting into full endemic-style (living with Covid-19) strategy in Sarawak without first addressing some of the fundamental public health measures.”
While the vaccination rate in Sarawak is commendable, Dr Yii said there is still much to be done in order to see people co-exist with the virus in an ambience of safety and not causing danger to all over time.
He said at least 80 per cent of the state’s total population must be vaccinated before moving to the endemic stage.
He suggested moving away from the herd immunity concept to high levels of total population vaccination.
“This includes comprehensive plans for a booster shot policy, especially for frontliners and high-risk groups. Even when we move to high total population vaccination rates, we still need to keep in place the key public health mitigation measures.”
Dr Yii also called for a Comprehensive National Testing Plan to be put in place even in an endemic stage.
“Such plan will outline the testing strategy for all businesses and workplace. Instead of categorising them as essential or non-essential, they should be categorised as lower or higher risk.
“With that, each category will require a certain standard operating procedure (SOP) for testing, with higher risk industries required to test more frequently,” he suggested.
He added that the government will need to subsidise self-test kits to make it affordable and accessible for all.
He said there must be proper enforcement for the National Testing Plan.
To achieve this, Dr Yii said the local authorities, the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Niosh), among others, must be empowered to carry out such enforcement while promoting good and safe practices at workplace.
He said the government should also inject investment into the country’s public health services to deal with possible surges of cases especially in view of new variants.
“This includes improving our contact tracing mechanism which failed and caused us to be in the current situation that we are in. All public health tools must be improved including the support for our public health staff.”
He said the government must also start painting a picture of what the future will be including what to expect and react in the case of a possible surge of Covid-19 cases.
“If we shift to full endemic too soon, without preparing other fundamentals, I am concerned it can still trigger a new wave especially among our high-risk groups and those yet to be vaccinated including children and overwhelm the hospitals and even intensive care unit (ICU) capacity,” he added.