Dr Sim: Sarawak could be first State in Malaysia to transition to endemic Covid-19 phase

A screengrab of Dr Sim (in yellow shirt) and Wee (in white shirt) monitor as a student receives his first vaccine shot.

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By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Sept 9: Sarawak could become the first State in Malaysia to exit from the Covid-19 pandemic stage and enter the endemic stage as domestic vaccine coverage hits 89.7 per cent.

Minister for Local Government and Housing Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian revealed that the State government is preparing to discuss in depth the transition towards an endemic Covid-19 strategy with Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin and Education Minister Datuk Dr Mohd Radzi Jidin next week.

“KJ (Khairy) is planning to visit Sarawak next week and the Education Minister as well to discuss school reopening, vaccination process and especially how to move Sarawak into an endemic phase, among other important matters.

“(In terms of vaccination) Sarawak is moving fast and far ahead of other States in Malaysia and that’s why we have entered into the teen vaccination stage. After this, we will look into vaccination for children below the age of 15 as they make up quite a percentage of the population.

“With the high vaccination rate, Sarawak is the first State in Malaysia (to be ready) to move into endemic to live with the virus,” he told reporters when met at the SJK Chung Hua Pending vaccination centre (PPV) which saw over 350 students received their first dose of the Covid-18 vaccine today.

His visit together with Kuching South City Council (MBKS) Mayor Dato Wee Hong Seng was broadcast live on the latter’s social media page.

Students and their parents getting consultation prior to their vaccine jab. Photos credit: Dr Sim’s Facebook page

Dr Sim, who is the State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) advisor, pointed out that the State government is now looking into the best measures for Sarawak to live with the virus and treat Covid-19 like influenza, chicken pox or measles.

“The measures to be adopted will be different for every State or country as what can be done in Labuan may not be suitable for Sarawak,” he said.

While the government is still working on the roadmap, Dr Sim emphasised that vaccination, Covid-19 precautionary measures and self-testing remain important issues for the post-vaccination era.

“We need to continue with some restrictions including mandatory face masks and high standards of hygiene because the virus that originated from Wuhan (China) 20 months ago has a different viral load today.

“Last year, it was transmitted by droplets but the Delta variant from India is by aerosol and has double the viral load. We need to decrease the infection spread,” he explained.

Vaccination, he continued, remained the key measure by which to fight Covid-19 in order to reduce severity in illness, deaths and hospitalisation.

“Even though the number of positive cases is high now, most of them are in Category 1 or 2 (with none or mild symptoms). That’s what we want, to reduce severe illness (which could be fatal and life altering).

“We can see that (from statistics) many states (in Malaysia) have lower (numbers of) positive cases but their death rates are a lot more,” he said.

As it appears that there is no way to eliminate the virus which countries like New Zealand and Australia have attempted, Dr Sim emphasised that self-testing will be crucial to quickly isolate oneself if tested positive in order to reduce community transmission.

“We cannot eliminate the virus but we need to learn how to live with it so self-testing will become part of the new normal but we still need to decide on how regularly this should be done,” he added.

On the teen vaccination exercise in Kuching, he said there are more than 21,000 students within Kuching Division who will be vaccinated across 15 PPVs established in selected schools over the next few days.

“In SJK Chung Hua Pending PPV handled by the Taneh Puteh health clinic, some 3,000 students from 12 schools are expected to be vaccinated here.

“Overall in Kuching Division, there are about 29,000 teenagers; the remaining 7,000 to 8,000 who may not be schooling anymore won’t be left out. We want every teen to be vaccinated,” he said. — DayakDaily