Will Sarawak move into Phase 2 of NRP this week?

Covid-19 daily toll in Sarawak from May 29, 2021 to July 11, 2021. Compiled by Dayakdaily.

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By Adrian Lim

It is hotly speculated that Sarawak will move into Phase 2 of the National Recovery Plan (NRP) this week if the daily count of new Covid-19 cases remains below 300.

This is because Sarawak after the month-long Movement Control Order (MCO) in effect since May 29, 2021 and its high vaccination rate is slowly meeting the three prerequisites to move into Phase Two, which are low average daily Covid-19 case numbers, sufficient healthcare capacity and vaccination rate as laid down by the State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC).

First of all, let us look into the first prerequisite — low average daily Covid-19 cases. For the past week, daily Covid-19 case numbers reported by SDMC have shown a considerable drop compared to last month where the daily reported cases breached the 700-case mark.

On July 5, Sarawak recorded a total of 424 new Covid-19 cases, a seemingly high figure. However, a closer look shows that out of the 424 cases, 132 stemmed from a single cluster involving a plywood factory in Miri. The remaining 292 cases were actually from sporadic infections across Sarawak.

From July 6 to July 11, new Covid-19 cases by date are as follows: July 6 (286 cases); July 7 (289); July 8 (281); July 9 (406); July 10 (352) and July 11 (270).

Daily Covid-19 case numbers, number of patients discharged and patients in ICU reported in Sarawak from July 5 to 11, 2021.

Of these six days, only July 9 appears to break the pattern. However, as Sarawak Health Director Dato Dr Mohamed Sapian Mohamed explained in a press conference on the same day, the spike was due to the 108 cases detected in three detention facilities in Kuching district.

Furthermore, districts in Sarawak which have been reporting three-digit case numbers daily such as Bintulu, Sibu, and Miri have been consistently registering two-digit increases. Even Kuching has been showing a decline in case numbers although the two-digit figures are still on the high side.

Overall, it is fair to say that there has been a significant decline in new Covid-19 cases as compared to before and during the first phase of the MCO which started on May 29, 2021 and which has been extended until now.

While the general Covid-19 situation improves, it is expected that the pressure on healthcare capacity to cope with new cases will also relax. According to SDMC statistics, there has also been a notable improvement in this area.

Statistics from the past week show that those discharged from hospitals and Quarantine and Low-Risk Treatment Centres (PKRCs) have been slowly surpassing those admitted. On July 5, 322 people were discharged followed by July 6 (371); July 7 (308); July 8 (426); July 9 (516); July 10 (386) and July 11 (526).

The occupancy rate of beds in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) has also shown a general downward trend. On July 5, as many as 78 ICU beds were occupied, and it slowly declined over the week to 66 on July 11.

Meanwhile, the third indicator, the number of people receiving their second Covid-19 vaccine dose has been increasing following efforts by SDMC to accelerate it with full cooperation and strong support from the private sector.

Various means to vaccinate Sarawkians have been rolled out, ranging from mega vaccination centres, government rural hospitals, private clinics, mobile vaccination centres serving rural settlements, and now, home-to-home vaccination in districts such as Bintulu which can spare the effort.

Private sector entities such as shopping malls and industrial establishments have chipped in to expedite inoculation rates by setting up vaccination centres, not only offering vaccination for their own workers but also allowing workers within the same industrial areas to be vaccinated.

Due to the concerted effort across the whole State by SDMC, private sector players and health workers, based on the statistics shared by SDMC advisor Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian on his social media page, Sarawak ranks first nationwide with 520,529 people, constituting 25.5 per cent of Sarawak residents being fully inoculated as of July 10.

It is undeniable that the Covid-19 situation in Sarawak has shown a great improvement. It would thus be reasonable to conclude that there’s a high possibility Sarawak could soon be transiting to Phase Two of the NRP keeping in mind that businesses and industries have been severely stifled by the month-long MCO, which has left an adverse impact on Sarawak’s economy and the lives of people, especially those in the B40 group.

Moving into Phase 2 will no doubt be great news for all Sarawakians, including Dr Sim who is also the Local Government and Housing Minister who recently shared a photo of a bowl of his favourite laksa on his Facebook page on Sunday (July 10), stating that he was looking forward to have laksa at a kopitiam this week.

Is this a hint that dine-in which almost everyone in Sarawak is missing will be allowed this week? No one can tell. Not even Dr Sim as the decision of whether a move into Phase 2 of NRP will happen can only be collectively made by SDMC during its meeting.

Regardless, let DayakDaily summarise for readers what are the activities allowed in Phase 2 of NRP.

First of all, dine-ins are allowed subject to standard operating procedures (SOPs) from the Local Government and Housing Ministry.

Other activities or businesses allowed to resume operations under Phase 2 of the NRP include barber shops, electrical shops, car wash businesses, fashion boutiques, Sunday markets, phone retail and accessory operations, flower shops, furniture shops, cybercafe outlets and so forth.

Business operation hours allowed will be from 6am to 10pm while permitted workforce capacity for the private sector will be increased to 50 per cent from the current 30 per cent under Phase One.

There will be no curfew imposed and less restrictions on the movement of people.

However, social gatherings such as weddings, engagements, birthday celebrations, ‘akad nikah’, ‘aqiqah’, ‘tahlil’, reunion, feasts and so on will still be prohibited.

Sports and entertainment activities such as karaoke, watching movies in cinemas and visiting night clubs and pubs remain prohibited. — DayakDaily