KUCHING, Dec 27 — Sarawak entered 2021 with eight Covid-19 cases on the first day, but the daily figure soon rose to 146 in less than two weeks after the New Year.
The spike reflected the national situation, where the healthcare system was said to ‘have reached a breaking point, resulting in the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah proclaiming a nationwide State of Emergency on Jan 12.
In force until Aug 1, the Emergency served as a proactive measure to contain the worsening Covid-19 situation in the country.
Of vaccination for teens and booster dose
As its protective measure to protect its people, Sarawak rolled out the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (NCIP) in late February, with the first phase involving a group of 1,688 people — the majority of whom were frontliners — receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
The programme went on without much of a hitch as eligible Sarawakians were given either the Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac or AstraZeneca vaccine.
Notably, Sarawak was the first state in Malaysia to roll out Covid-19 vaccination for teenagers on Sept 8, starting with those aged 16 and 17.
This marked the first stage of the vaccination drive for adolescents, which later continued with those in the 12-to-15 age group.
It was estimated that 289,200 teenagers, aged between 12 and 17, had been inoculated throughout this vaccination drive.
On Oct 13, Health Department Sarawak announced the start of the third-dose and booster vaccination for eligible individuals in Sarawak.
Under this drive, the priority was given to high-risk groups namely the immunocompromised individuals, the senior citizens, as well as health and medical frontliners.
The third dose was administered to an estimated 11,900 people who were immunocompromised (those with weakened immune system due to certain diseases or medical treatments).
The booster shots, on the other hand, were meant for 80,300 senior citizens aged 60 and above, as well as 30,340 frontliners.
These doses were made available at selected government health clinics, private hospitals and private clinics.
On Nov 12, the Health Department said Sarawak would continue using the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which had been approved by the Ministry of Health (MoH), as the booster dose.
The department said it would only administer the Sinovac booster vaccine under certain circumstances, such as if the vaccine recipient had a contraindication or allergy to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
A day prior to the issuance of the Health Department’s statement, former Bukit Assek assemblywoman Irene Chang pointed out that the Sinovac booster vaccine had been given to Sabahans — opposite to only Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine being available as a booster dose in Sarawak.
Chang opined that as 77.7 per cent of the population in Sarawak had been given the Sinovac vaccine for their first and second doses, the majority of them were reluctant and very concerned about the ‘mix-and-match’ approach in terms of the administration of the third or booster dose.
Question of election
Before the Emergency lapsed on Aug 1, the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah had, on July 31, decreed that Sarawak would continue to be placed under the Emergency from Aug 2 up until Feb 2, 2022.
Such Proclamation had prevented the 12th Sarawak election from being held within 60 days from the expiry of the nationwide Emergency, set on Aug 1.
Prior to the extension of the Emergency period, Sarawak had, on July 14, entered Phase 2 of the National Recovery Plan (NRP) following a risk assessment done by the National Security Council (NSC) and the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC).
Under Phase 2, the restrictions under the set Movement Control Order (MCO) had been relaxed — one example was dining-in at eateries was allowed, despite the earlier ban on it in view of the discovery of the Delta variant of Covid-19 cases in Sarawak.
Sarawak first detected a Delta variant case on June 18, involving a 56-year-old man whose case was classified as Import B (imported from other states).
In early August, Sarawak eased into Phase 3 of the NRP, but put the Southern Zone on hold as Kuching District recorded about half of the state’s daily infections.
For the record, the Southern Zone comprises Kuching, Bau, Lundu, Samarahan, Simunjan, Asajaya, Serian and Tebedu districts.
Power outage at PPV
On June 14, the Covid-19 vaccination centre (PPV) at Stadium Perpaduan in Petra Jaya experienced a blackout, which had interrupted the immunisation process.
The power-supply interruption was announced by the Sarawak Public Communications Unit (Ukas) on its Facebook page, extending regrets for any inconvenience caused.
Later that day, SDMC in a statement said the overcrowding at PPV Stadium Perpaduan was due to technical problems, including the temporary power outage.
On June 22, the PPV at Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) kicked off the Sinovac and Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccination drives.
It meant to assist in facilitating the NCIP for the vaccinees in Kuching registered via MySejahtera.
Since June 7, the PPV BCCK had been administering the first-dose jabs on those who had opted to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Current trend, concern over Omicron
Sarawak first broke the 2,000-mark on Aug 20, when it recorded 2,548 positive Covid-19 cases.
From there, the number of daily cases had been soaring, reaching its peak on Sept 12 with 5,291 cases.
However, it would be notable to state that despite having recorded four-digit number of daily infections from mid-August and mid-October, the majority of these cases comprised those with mild or no Covid-19 symptoms.
Less than one per cent of these daily cases consisted of those with pneumonia but not requiring oxygen, those with pneumonia and requiring oxygen, and those with pneumonia and requiring ventilator support.
After mid-October, the number of daily infections in Sarawak began exhibiting a decline, and on Nov 3, the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah announced the lifting of the Emergency, which paved the way for the calling of the 12th state election.
Sarawak has recorded daily infections in the three digits since after mid-October, and down to double digits since Dec 5.
However on Dec 18, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah announced in a blog post that two Omicron variant Covid-19 cases had been detected in Sarawak.
He said one of them had travelled out of the UK, transited in Singapore, and arrived in Malaysia on Dec 12. Dr Noor Hisham added that the other had come back from the US, transited in Doha, Qatar, and arrived in Malaysia on the same date.
The cases, both Malaysians, were asymptomatic.
As at Christmas Eve, Sarawak recorded a total of 252,148 positive Covid-19 cases.
The death toll due to the coronavirus was at 1,614.
All communities are being constantly reminded about strict compliance with the standard operating procedures (SOP) set by the authorities to curb the spread of Covid-19. — Borneo Post