Factors to consider when reopening more businesses

PETALING JAYA: Rapid testing and biosafety preparedness are keys in allowing non-critical economic sectors to gradually reopen, say health and economy experts.

Universiti Malaya professor of epidemiology and public health Prof Dr Sanjay Rampal said while the target of vaccinating 10% of the nation’s population or 3.2 million people by mid-July was achievable, the reopening of more business sectors would depend on the number of daily infections and strain on the healthcare system.

“A key determinant on whether we should relax the movement restriction will be based on the Health Ministry situational analysis of the healthcare capacity.

“A total lockdown has very high psychological, social and economic cost. It should only be continued if our healthcare system is overstrained, ” he said yesterday.

Prof Sanjay said the government was likely to make a decision on whether to open up more economic sectors after analysing the Covid-19 statistics for this week.

Economics expert Prof Dr Barjoyai Bardai of Universiti Tun Abdul Razak said rapid testing should also be ramped up instead of relying on mass vaccinations.

“The UK is an example where over 10, 000 daily Covid-19 cases were recorded recently despite 60% of its population vaccinated.

“It showed that vaccination is not the final solution and a guarantee in solving the problem, ” he added.

He noted that the inability to conduct rapid tests and isolate cases would hamper efforts to open up more of the economy.

“What is happening here now is that positive cases are only detected after random tests are done.... There must be more efficient and rapid ways of detecting new cases, ” he said.

Prof Barjoyai said that speedier identification processes would allow authorities to manage the pandemic and allow for businesses to reopen faster.

“The business sectors are not the cause of Covid-19 infections which have been detected in mass social gatherings and the community.

“We should not just blame business activities for infections, ” he added.

University Malaya virologist Prof Dr Sazaly Abu Bakar said businesses should focus more on ensuring workplace safety if they were allowed to reopen.

“The criteria for businesses to gradually open up will be dependent on the readiness of businesses in implementing biosafety measures to prevent workplace spread of infection, ” he said.

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