By Adrian Lim
Is Sarawak ready to move into Phase Three of the National Recovery Plan (NRP) early next month if the domestic Covid-19 situation in the coming days continues to improve?
Make no mistake, all signs are pointing towards Sarawak moving into Phase Three soon although the State has just transited from Phase One to Phase Two in mid-July.
Let’s revisit the three key indicators which the State must reflect to transit from one phase to another.
First is a low average of daily Covid-19 cases, followed by low utilisation of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds in healthcare facilities and vaccinating a certain percentage of the population.
Based on data from the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC), the Covid-19 situation in Sarawak has stabilised with the number of daily cases ranging between 200 and 400 per day in the past seven days except on July 22 where there was a spike in cases (644) due to two clusters in Saratok and two prison clusters in Miri and Sri Aman respectively.
Aside from these clusters, which are deemed one-off outbreaks, Covid-19 cases in Sarawak on the day could have been less than 400 cases.
On July 20, Sarawak reported a total of 351 Covid-19 cases.
While the situation seems to be improving with the State reporting 261 cases the next day, the drastic spike to 644 cases on July 22 put a dampener on the State’s recovery.
Nonetheless, it was not seen as a cause for concern as the high number of cases were due to active case detection at prisons and Enhanced Movement Control Order (EMCO) areas.
The following day, new daily cases declined to 461 and subsequently fell to 261 on July 24 before reversing the downtrend to notch up 407 cases on July 25, 356 cases on July 26 and 405 cases on July 27.
While Covid-19 cases fluctuated between 200 and 400, there were less Covid-19 patients being treated in ICUs, thus putting less pressure on the healthcare system.
The number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs fell to 34 from 40, from July 20 to July 27.
Over the same period, the number of recoveries exceeded new cases for four out of the seven days.
As for the third indicator which is the number of vaccinated individuals, Sarawak ranks among the top states in the nation with the most number of people vaccinated.
According to data from the National Covid-19 Immunisation Task Force (CITF), a total of 1.67 million Sarawakians have received their first Covid-19 vaccine dose as of July 27 which represents 59.6 per cent of the eligible population to be vaccinated while 1.19 million people or 42.5 per cent have been fully vaccinated.
With approximately 60 per cent of Sarawak’s population getting their first Covid-19 vaccine dose and the immunisation programme entering its last leg, there’s a high probability that Sarawak will reach the three threshold indicators for moving into Phase Three of NRP sooner rather than later.
In fact, Sarawak has already fulfilled one of the three requirements, which is getting 40 per cent of the population vaccinated.
Phase Three is definitely something that Sarawakians and businesses are looking forward to as more activities and business will be allowed to operate, with some forced to close since Phase One of the NRP began on May 29.
Restrictions which will be further relaxed in Phase Three of NRP include those for social gatherings such as weddings, engagements, tahlil, and receptions.
For couples looking to tie the knot, it may be a good time to revisit postponed plans although the number of guests allowed will be limited to 50 per cent of the premises capacity or a maximum of 200 people.
For sports enthusiasts, individual and team sporting events for training and competition purposes will be allowed subject to guidelines from the Youth and Sports Ministry.
In Phase Three, the private sector will be allowed to operate at full capacity.
Surely, the business community will be the happiest in celebrating Sarawak moving into Phase Three of the NRP as they will be allowed to reopen their businesses after being closed for more than two months.
However, some businesses, for instance nightclubs or pubs, karaoke and cinemas, will still not be allowed to operate.
Travelling inter-state will continue to be not allowed but inter-district travel will be permitted subject to the rules set by SDMC.
With more activities allowed to operate, one could say that there is light at the end of the tunnel for Sarawak in its battle against the Covid-19 pandemic as the State is moving one step closer to “freedom”. — DayakDaily