Sarawak State Election Can Wait. Expert Raised The Latest Herd Immunity Threshold Against COVID-19 To Be At Least 80%


Press Statement By Julian Tan:

The Sarawak State government urges not to rush into holding state elections this year. We should have an undivided focus on economic recovery and ensure all relevant government agencies are for and relevant to the current recovery effort.

The percentage of people who need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity varies with each disease. For example, measles requires about 95%, and the threshold is about 80% for polio. In Sarawak, we barely passed the minimum recommended 70% total population vaccinated needed for Herd immunity against the COVID-19 spread. The threshold, however, was calculated based on the original version of the virus. The current new variants are spreading too easily. The latest calculation from experts now raised the herd immunity threshold against COVID-19 to be at least 80%.

Science and DATA don’t lie. Since early June, when Malaysia’s new daily infected case hovers around 7’000, experts warned us that we would hit a projected 26’000 by September. Many suggested only a total full lockdown can curb the spread of Coronavirus with the least economic impact. Yet, instead of following what the expert says, we proceed with a half-hearted lockdown. By the end of August, we hit 20’000+ new daily cases even with under-testing for Covid-19. The prolonged partial lockdown also incurred more hardship to businesses. Don’t make the same mistake again. At least reach the latest 80% immunity threshold. This is vital to keep vulnerable groups who cannot get vaccinated (e.g., due to health conditions like allergic reactions to the vaccine) safe and protected from the disease. Think about the children that still can’t be vaccinated.

Having a state election now will only spread our resources thin, money that can be better used to ease economic recovery. Into the billion ringgits? At least finish disbursing all the said financial aid. Many are still not receiving it and plague with never-ending application processes. A lot more effort is urgently needed to streamline state and federal agencies to make life easy for people. The education gap for the underprivileged group due to unequal learning is very concerning. What is the immediate solution from the state government?

It is regrettable that instead of making life easier for Sarawakian, some are now singing the ‘Election tune’ of the State Government, playing politics with the management of the Covid-19 pandemic. The only reason that the infection cases have been dropping in the last week is that the authorities in Sarawak and the Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia have since last month refused to test all those “close contacts without symptoms”. The “less testing, less infection” self-deceiving strategy is putting everyone’s lives at risk. The resulting ‘lower number of cases’ contradicts the number of hospitalizations in Sarawak. As of 20th October, Sarawak is the 3rd highest in Malaysia after Selangor and Klang Valley, a 16% increase (442) over the past 7 days. ICU utilization is at 81.3%, the highest in the whole country. Again, Science and DATA don’t lie.

Currently, the Sarawak State of Emergency will end in Feb 2020. It’s only going to be a few months different if we held a state election this year. Why is the rush? It seems that the main reason for such a self-deceiving strategy is merely to justify calling for the State elections earlier and depriving more than the 660’000 new voters of their right to vote, especially the 18-year-old voters who will be eligible to cast their votes after December 2021.

The State election can wait. Let us not put our political interest above the health and social wellbeing of Sarawakian. By Feb 2022, we will easily have more than 80-90% vaccinated. Everyone will be better off economically should the government do its part with undivided attention. Governments exist to serve the people and not the other way around.

Julian Tan
Special assistant to YB Chong Chieng Jen