Managing responsibly — Terence Naidu

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FEBRUARY 24 — With position comes power. Power to rule and govern. What more with Emergency declared?

While Malaysians grapple with the constant barrage of MCOs and EMCOs, businesses big and small are affected so badly to the point that some have even disappeared forever. The constant announcements of help from the government never did reach some of them.

More interestingly, what are those in authority doing to get to the source of the problem?

Take Australia and New Zealand for example. While they dispensed the painful medicine early on in the pandemic by ensuring strict lockdowns, they are now seeing single digit cases and are generally acknowledged as the best in managing the virus that has set upon us for one year now.

Although Malaysia has now received the vaccine, the crucial ‘herd immunity’ point will not be seen until a significant percentage of population is immunized. So, yet again has the government done what is within its powers to manage the situation? In short, dare I say not enough!

Let’s look into what was said by the Director-General of Health early on in the pandemic, to achieve the crucial ‘low infection’ rate.

‘Early testing’ or ‘Ujian Saringan’ was mentioned many times, in order to identify those who might have been exposed to the virus but did not show any symptoms. This was said to be crucial, so that the possibility of infection by these asymptomatic individuals will be minimised. In fact, the reopening of “quarantine centres” such as MAEPS was meant to achieve this.

Early testing’ or ‘Ujian Saringan’ was mentioned many times by the Health D-G, in order to identify those who might have been exposed to the virus but did not show any symptoms. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Early testing’ or ‘Ujian Saringan’ was mentioned many times by the Health D-G, in order to identify those who might have been exposed to the virus but did not show any symptoms. — Picture by Hari Anggara

Test and identify, isolate and treat. Fact: The DG himself said that this is to relieve the pressure currently felt by the ICU teams which do not have enough beds to treat severe cases if more cases keep emerging. Sadly, this early testing may not be reaching other states, such as Perak which has recently seen a four-digit record of cases-1215 cases on 21 February 2021.

With the reopening of economic sectors, to ensure that the economy remains active after undergoing yet another MCO, workplaces become a real danger. Again, as mentioned by the DG ‘workplace clusters’ are becoming the real hotspot of infection. Why? A false sense of safety where exposures to carriers and asymptomatic patients mean possibilities of infection are higher. Sadly, worker dormitories and staff quarters, even those in government such as correctional facilities can become the hotspot. Will early screening help? For sure, but has it been done? Not enough!!

While the vaccine rollout has begun, one cannot help but feel that this is yet another exercise that may not have been well thought out and if I am wrong, more can be done to give assurance to the public that the authorities have a well mapped plan. Do you know about the rollout plan and what is the approach taken by the government? It has been announced that Perak will receive up to 79,650 doses of Covid19 vaccine. Of these, 33,503 doses will be allocated to frontliners through 49 vaccine dispensing centres including Stadium Indera Mulia. However, with the second phase planned only between April and August for those 60 years old and above including chronic and high risk groups, what is the plan to manage these groups between now and then?

As a reminder, didn’t the Women Affairs & Welfare Minister mentioned that certain people in the high-risk group are not part of the ‘first dose’ recipients. If high risks groups are not part of it, who are they targeting as early recipients other than frontliners? It is no secret that undocumented workers are avoiding the authorities, and if this is so, how will the vaccine reach this crucial group which is by far the biggest contributors given their lax living conditions? For Selangor which has its own task force to proactively increase testing and also creating a ‘POIS’ (Preventing Outbreak at Ignition Site) is testament that the state government is serious is bringing down the high numbers recorded recently.

Enforcement is lax, and let alone the tomfoolery of some tasked with manning roadblocks that sometimes almost achieve nothing, other than the alleged sexual harassment and ill-informed boundaries. Instead, they should have been deployed in hotspots, and strict MCOs enforces in districts and areas, rather than a blanketed one. On one hand, we had the Prime Minister talking about a ‘travel bubble’ with our neighbour Indonesia (which coincidentally continues with high infection numbers) yet, not much has been revealed about the safety and mechanisms on how this can be achieved.

Rather can I suggest, a simple state managed task force to battle the virus, just as seen in Selangor which is targeted to better manage the ground. It appears Selangor has taken its own measures. It will be a deadly mistake if politics is used as a measure to what is seen as the best way to manage the virus.

High numbers are just indicators and managing it is a sure step to reduce cases by infection and cases per hundred thousand- we expect those high population areas to have higher rate of infections-like India, China, New York etc. Thus having 10 cases in a state like Perlis will not be of the same magnitude of the 10 cases in Sarawak.

Sadly, micromanaging the virus is deftly missing here and now.

*This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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