By Lian Cheng
On June 16, 2021, after chairing the Conference of Rulers on the pandemic and political situation in Malaysia, the King listed three major approaches which he believed are crucial in bringing the Covid-19-striken nation forward.
Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al- Mustafa Billah Shah’s first concern is the threat posed by Covid-19 and outlined his view that vaccination is the exit strategy and the only way to control the spread of the pandemic in the country. He then went on to emphasise that the government should get rid of bureaucracy and expedite vaccinations for the people to achieve 80 per cent herd immunity soonest possible.
Finally, he pointed out that there is a need for a stable and strong government which can effectively execute the vaccination programme to deal with the pandemic and to pave way for the country’s economic recovery.
The three approaches put forth by the King at the hour the nation has been brought to its knees by an invisible but deadly enemy are straightforward and practical. The King being above politics and as the constitutional monarch of the nation, understandably, has no ulterior motive in setting the nation’s course in addressing the present devastation brought about by Covid-19.
Likewise, just two days before the King issued his statement, the ruling Gabungan Parti Sarawak coalition consisting of Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), Sarawak United Peoples’ Party (SUPP), Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) and Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) highlighted what they believed to be crucial components to move the State forward in the face of multiple waves of assaults by the pandemic.
The three-paragraph statement which was issued after a virtual audience with the King on June 14 stated clearly in point format that three crucial factors to fight the pandemic are expediting the vaccination process, maintaining a stable government to deliver vaccinations and implementing an exit plan following the achievement of the desired herd immunity.
“We, as chairmen of PRS, SUPP and PDP fully agree with the Chief Minister, Datuk Patinggi Abang Haji Zohari bin Tun Datuk Abang Haji Openg, chairman of GPS, on the three crucial factors in the fight against COVID-19 and the conduct of the economy that was presented to the YDP Agong during the session.
“I The vaccination programme is to be accelerated and completed by August in order to achieve herd immunity;
II The presence of a strong and stable government to ensure COVID-19 programme and economy implementation are well-grounded; and
III The implementation of a post COVID-19 Economic Exit Plan,” said the statement.
It comes as no surprise that both the King and the GPS government have reached the same conclusions following different levels of deliberations and meetings. They are but rational deductions by institutions entrusted with the responsibility to take care of the people.
There were no objections, protests or arguments against the GPS government’s statement which is quite uncommon. Despite so, it is common knowledge that there are some who believe that lockdown is the answer to the pandemic and not vaccination.
It is undeniable that a lockdown is an effective measure, however, it serves more to delay the inevitable as after a lockdown, the coronavirus will still find a way to come back, unless it is a prolonged lockdown which is followed by a long-term closed door policy which bans all physical contact with the outside world.
Sarawak has done it all — full lockdowns and and restrictions on most forms of physical distancing by prohibiting flights, entry into the state through ports and closing borders. But as stated earlier, these are but temporary in effectiveness. No country or state, or any sovereign entity for that matter, can survive with prolonged lockdowns and by keeping all its doors shut, not even Brunei which has high income per capita and a small population. Rich it may be, it still needs to import food and other essential goods.
Like it or not, there is no better choice, other than mass vaccination, and that is a rational conclusion which needs no rocket scientist to figure out.
And apparently, as young a State as we are at just 58-years-old, most Sarawakians, being rational and clear-minded know what is best for themselves and Sarawak. Like the King and the Sarawak government, it is also their belief that the way out is through mass vaccination to reach herd immunity to pave the way for economic recovery.
This can be seen from the high number of Sarawakians registering for Covid-19 vaccinations. As of June 16, 2021, a total of 1,405,883 Sarawakians, constituting 68.82 per cent of the overall Sarawakian population have registered, be it through MySejahtera or via manual registration with Resident Offices or local authorities.
According to an infographic by the Sarawak government, as many as 438,621 have already been vaccinated.
It is not certain if the ever-evolving novel coronavirus will metamorphose into new strains which would render currently available vaccines ineffective. What we can be certain about is that, the King, the Sarawak government and the people are on the right track, as they take into account practicality, which hangs on the availability and efficacy of vaccines.
It may not be the perfect solution to completely curbing the Covid-19 pandemic but it is available and effective to a certain extent. Until and unless we have a better answer, vaccines and the effective administration of it, is our light at the end of the tunnel. — DayakDaily