Press Statement By Chong Chieng Jen:
The new decision of the Government not to test asymptomatic Covid close contact person is an attempt to manipulate figures on infection cases, to artificailly surpress the figures.
Such decision is dangerous especially given that all the children under 12 are not vaccinated and a majority of those between 12 – 17 years are still waiting to be vaccinated.
Even if the Government were to treat the Covid-19 pandemic as “endemic”, the testing must go on so that people can practise more precaution.
The Sarawak government seems to be taking pride in the low death rates amongst the Covid patients. Such attitude is most undesirable as one life lost is one too many. Though the death rate may be low, but our current Covid death cases are many times more than the Covid death cases in the first year of the pandemic.
Therefore, the fight against Covid is still not over, especially when our children are still vulnerable and the effectiveness of vaccine protection on those fully vaccinated will decrease over time, as fast as 6 months.
While we acknowledge the need to open up the economy, but certain measures must be adopted to minimise the risk of infection, illness and death. Surely, by reducing testing is NOT the correct way.
To open up the economy, the Government must continue with the mass testing and adopt more effective test, trace and isolate strategy.
At current, the test results will only be out 3 – 5 days of the collection of samples. This is far too slow and not acceptable. Those infected would have infected hundreds if not tens of others before their positive results were made known to them. This is one big failure on the part of the State Government. After more than 18 months into the pandemic, the State Government still could not get the facilities ready for swift test results. It is not a matter of technology impossibility but sheer lack of commitment and incompetency on the part of the State Government.
The other protocol that needs improvement is the need to collect the “quarantine wristbands” for those Covid close contact but not tested ones. They are made to queue in the wristband collection centres for hours before they are given the wristband. This unnecessarily exposes them to infection, bearing in mind that all those waiting and queuing there may not be infected but are high risks.
The Government should utilise the MySejahtera Applications as virtual quarantine wristband, barring those supposedly serving home quarantine from all outlets.
In conclusion, the strategy for opening up the economy and treating the pandemic as endemic are thus an effective test, trace and isolate strategy, and third booster shots for the adults and high vaccination rate for the teens. The sooner the State Government can get their acts together, the faster we can open up our economy.
One thing for sure, manipulation and suppression of the figures is not the correct way to open up the economy.
Chong Chieng Jen
DAP Sarawak Chairman