Malaysia must reopen soon


I have been in London since Aug 4. The purpose of my trip? Medical procedures that are not available in Malaysia. Since Malaysia is categorised as an 'amber” country, I had to self isolate and quarantine in my own apartment for 10 days.

I had to undergo compulsory swab PCR tests on day two and eight and I had the option to do an ‘early release’ swab test on the day five. Please note that arrival date is considered day zero.

To date, I have had swab tests on Aug 1 (pre-departure), Aug 6, Aug 7 (pre-admission to hospital), Aug 9 and 12. Five swab tests and so far so good, as long as I am being labelled as negative.

I have to do further swab tests today (second pre-admission) and one more pre-departure swab test in London. After landing in KLIA, I understand I will have to do an antigen test. As I am fully vaccinated, I am now allowed to quarantine in my own home for 14 days.

I do feel alienated when I walk on the streets or go into restaurants. I am so used to wearing a mask but almost everyone here in the UK do not wear masks! The exceptions are some old folks and the Chinese staff in Royal China restaurants. I understand that you have to wear masks when you take the underground trains. That’s all.

The UK economy is fully open and running at full steam. What can we learn from the UK experiment on managing a pandemic crisis? Follow the facts and data:

> Vaccination to date – first dose 90% of adult population. second dose 76%. In three weeks time, 90% of the adult population will be fully vaccinated. UK has also started vaccinating 16 and 17-year-olds.

> Positive cases Aug 12 – 33,074 cases a day.

> Admission into hospital 737 cases a day

> Patients on ventilation – 871 people

> Deaths – average of 90 deaths a day for the last one week.

There is a correlation between vaccination ratios and seriously ill and death ratios in this UK experiment.

Vaccination ratios are up while admissions into hospital and deaths down. Positive cases will always be detected as the virus is still around and all positive cases are advised to self-isolate at home for 10 days.

What then can Malaysia learn from the British experience?

Based on our latest data:

> Vaccination of adults – 70% have taken a first dose and 40% have taken two doses. In three weeks time, it will be 80% having taken their first dose, while 70% would have taken their second dose. So technically speaking, if we follow the British experience, we can open up our economy in early Sept. Perhaps on a precautionary step by step approach.

> For states that have had 70% of their adult population fully vaccinated, a full opening of economic activities with a vaccination passport being the criteria for dine-ins, attending functions, religious activities and back to work, can be recommended.

> For states that have had below 70% of their adult population vaccinated, they should remain in phase one and kept isolated from the rest of the country. A vaccination passport must be in place for economic and social activities and for inter-state travel.

> Wearing masks and hand sanitizers must still be a compulsory part of our daily lifes. Keep it simple, there is no need to micro manage standard operating procedures (SOPs).

It has been proven that all these SOPs have been ineffective in managing the pandemic.

The key solution to this pandemic has all along been the speed of vaccination of the population. And I must give credit to our National Covid-19 Immunisation Pro-gramme coordinating minister Khairy Jamaluddin who has done a remarkable job in sourcing, planning and implementation of the vaccination campaign.

Other than Singapore and China, Malaysia has done very well if compared to the other non-western countries.

We need to re-open our economy as soon as we healthily can. Not only is our general population in deep financial difficulties, the mental health of our citizens is in great peril. We need to regain some normalcy in our lives.

Restarting economic activities with our closest neighbour Singapore must be our priority as we have lost too much in employment opportunities. Citizens of both countries who are fully vaccinated must be allowed non-quarantine travel.

As our working mothers go back to work, fully vaccinated maids must be allowed to enter the country. They should still serve the two-week quarantine rules.

Travel restrictions for business purposes must be lifted for those who are fully vaccinated. For tourism to start, travel bubble arrangements between like minded countries can be considered.

We will need to adjust as we learn, making decisions based on latest key data. Nobody can predict the future and making decisions on hindsight is one step too slow.

We still have three weeks to observe the British experiment, crucial insights that can help us plan and make better decisions.

With our present political crisis, there is a possibility that a general election might be called soon.

Can Malaysia handle a general election with national campaigns over the next 90 days? I am confident that our Yang di-Pertuan Agong will make a wise decision to solve this dilemma.

In the meantime, please encourage everyone you know to get vaccinated. The sooner the better for all of us.

Tan Thiam Hock is an entrepreneur. Views expressed here are the writer’s own.

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