Government Should Ramp Up Our Mass Testing Capacity In Order to Reopen Different Economic Sectors

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Press Statement by YB Kelvin Yii:

In order for different economic sectors to open up and start operating in the midst of this pandemic and Movement Control Order(MCO) and not cause a spike of infection or formation of new clusters, the government should ramp up our mass testing capacity and be transparent about its data as well as provide clear and proper SOP on safe operations to limit the risk of infection among staff once they start operations.

With the recent announcement that the Sarawak State Disaster Management Committee(SDMC) will discuss with the Senior Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali about his announcement that all economic sectors that have been allowed to operate during the movement control order (MCO) period can ramp up their operations to full capacity starting today, i hope that the government will take into account the current situation and local context and not rush to a decision without taking into account all the needed data especially the true Covid-19 infection rate in Sarawak.

While the daily Covid-19 infection numbers Malaysia for past week has been rather encouraging, but these numbers have to be treated with caution as we need to properly peel through these numbers to get the full story.

In Malaysia as a whole we have 5,851 confirmed cases and Singapore has 14, 951. Many seem to feel that we are doing better, but do you know that Malaysia only had 4,701 test done per million as compared to Singapore who had 20,815 test done per million as of today?

To give you a better idea, Malaysia (32.3 mil population) had done total of 152,142 test in comparison to Singapore (5.6 mil population) had 121,774 test done as of 28th April 2020.

In Sarawak, if we based it on the WHO guidelines of positive test ration to total test, in total we have 4,882 Person Under Investigation(PUIs), and out of all PUIs tested we have 496 that are tested positive, 111 still pending results.

So this corresponds to 10.2%(haven’t taken into account pending results) which is already above the WHO guideline of 10% and 2 times higher than Malaysia as a whole ( ~5%). This shows that there are possibly many other infected people that have yet to be detected and that our testing capacity is still below the recommended ratio.

That is why i welcome the active case detection exercise done in Kota Samarahan and should be expanded especially in high-risk and red zones area.

Why is this data important for the opening of business? To win this battle, the most important strategy is to know where your enemies lies. That’s the whole purpose of MCO – to capture them (swab & test) and break the chain (treat & quarantine). Only through increasing out number of test/million as much as we can, then we can better detect where our enemies are especially those that may be hiding in the unknown (high-risk groups).

We want to reduce the risk of our people to be exposed to these “hiding places” especially when we start opening up our economy. In the case of Singapore, the “hiding place” was among the migrant workers. To find out where ours is, if any, we definitely do need to ramp up our testing capacity and our government should be transparent with all these data especially on daily test done.

In my view, the number that should be highlighted daily is the number of testing done!

On top of that, the government must come up with clear SOP of operations and communicate it to the industry. Based on feedback, many are still confused on the SOP and as a result, many of the workers are concerned on returning back to work. SOPs on how companies can limit the number of workers at work to practice safe distancing, SOPs on lift usage, pantry, meetings, common areas and even centralized office air-conditioning must be communicated clearly and how the government intents to inspect and enforce them in there is any breach. All these are important to allay concerns of workers and also to increase their productivity.

So while i do support opening up of the economy phase by phase, it is important to take into all these considerations before prematurely coming into a decision. From the cautionary tale of our neighbouring countries, all it takes is 1 misstep, or a weakest link for us to see another spike in infection cases in our country again, negating all the good work that was done for the past few weeks under MCO.