Sarawak must address fundamental public health measures first before shifting into endemic-style strategy, says Bandar Kuching MP

Dr Kelvin Yii (file photo)

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KUCHING, Sept 6: Ministry of Health (MOH) and State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) must first address some of the fundamental public health measures before shifting into full endemic-style (living with Covid-19) strategy in the State.

In stating this, Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii Lee Wuen said the two parties should come out with comprehensive and specific strategy as well as communication in preparing the public and businesses to adapt to the “new normal”.

He said MOH and SDMC must be transparent and inform the public on their plans whether on the short or long-term to educate and prepare the public on their approach towards Covid-19.

“We have seen the Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin mentioned that Labuan and to a certain extend, Sarawak, are already in an endemic phase where we should start living with the virus.

“State Ministers’ including the advisor to SDMC Datuk Seri Dr Sim Kui Hian has mentioned few times how we must learn to live with Covid-19. However, what they failed to do is to communicate comprehensively and educate the public on what does that mean,” he said in a statement today.

He added while the vaccination rate in Sarawak is commendable, but for Sarawakians to co-exist with the virus in an ambiance of safety and not causing danger over time, there is still much to be done before making that important decision to shift.

Following that, he suggested that there are five parameters that need to be fulfilled in order to live with Covid-19 endemic.

Firstly, he said the vaccination should cover at least 80 to 90 per cent of the total population, and not only the adults, but the children as well.

Secondly, he pointed out that a comprehensive National Testing Plan should also be part of the endemic strategy whereby the plan will outline the testing strategy for all businesses and workplaces and categorise them as lower or higher risk instead of essential or non-essential.

“With that, each category will require a certain standard operating procedure (SOP) for testing, with higher risk industries required to test more frequently. This will also require the government to subsidise Covid-19 self-test kits to make it affordable and accessible for all including the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and incorporate it into their ‘new normal’,” he said.

Thirdly, he further explained, a proper enforcement plan for the National Testing Plan should follow to ensure that the testing strategy is properly implemented and then make the necessary report if there are positive cases detected in the premises.

In order to do so, he emphasised the local councils, the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) and 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 when it comes to Covid-19.

He also said an investment to improve the public health services is necessary to deal with possible surges especially in view of new Covid-19 variants.

For the fifth measure, he said there is a need for an aggressive communication and education on what the ‘new normal’ is, including strict adherence to the National Testing Plan and all other necessary SOPs.

“Until we have fulfilled these parameters, I believe that Sarawak is not there yet when it comes to shifting to full endemic-style strategy.

“If we do it too soon without preparing other fundamentals, I worry that 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 ICU capacity,” he said. – DayakDaily.