Health experts urge caution ahead of SOP relaxation

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 08 Aug 2021

PETALING JAYA: As Covid-19 continues to register five-digit daily infection figures, health experts are urging Malaysians to exercise caution following the relaxation of certain standard operating procedures (SOP) announced by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

Medical Practitioners Coalition Association of Malaysia president Dr Raj Kumar Maharajah said the present restrictions cannot be completely lifted yet.

He said the virus is still mutating into forms that could still be lethal despite the host being fully vaccinated.

"We cannot let our guard down," he said when contacted on Sunday (Aug 8).

"The good thing is that the majority of those vaccinated only had mild infections when infected.

"I think it's still early to lift restrictions for the fully vaccinated. I propose a wait-and-see approach for the moment."

Similar thoughts were echoed by Prof Dr Moy Foong Min of Universiti Malaya, who pointed out the current transmission rate stood at a high of 1.1 and daily new cases remained at five digits.

"Although fully vaccinated, individuals can still get infected and even if their symptoms are mild, they might transmit the disease to other people who are not yet fully vaccinated," she said.

At the same time, Dr Moy said, individuals who are fully vaccinated should be allowed to have their hair cut at saloons, but she proposed that barbers should show proof of negative Covid-19 tests and being fully vaccinated.

She said similar SOP was practiced in factories, where workers have to produce a weekly negative Covid-19 result.

Dr Moy also said factories manufacturing non-essential items should be allowed to operate and their workers must be fully vaccinated with proof of negative Covid-19 results.

"Eventually, employers should ensure all workers should be fully vaccinated," she said.

However, she was of the view that interstate travel should not be allowed yet, as infection rates varied in each state and the present transmission rate could go up as people move across borders.

"Interstate travel will also increase mobility of individuals within families, which is one of the common ways of transmission happening currently. This should be stopped," she added.

Dr Moy said the relaxation of SOPs for fully vaccinated individuals should only be considered when the national inoculation rate moves above 50%.

"We can borrow examples from countries like the United States, UK and Israel, where their daily cases went down dramatically when the coverage of full vaccination went above 50%.

"It is also difficult to implement or monitor only individuals with full vaccination. This will require more manpower which is better used to monitor other Covid-19-related activities," she added.

On Sunday evening, Muhyiddin said in a special national address that Covid-19 restrictions will be eased starting Tuesday (Aug 10) for those who have been fully vaccinated.

Among the restrictions lifted in states under Phase Two of the National Recovery Plan were inter-district travel, tourism within the same state, dine-ins and outdoor exercise.

Restrictions lifted nationwide for individuals who are fully vaccinated are home quarantine being allowed for returning overseas travellers (who have their own home), and long-distance married couples being allowed to travel interstate or inter-district to see each other.

All states are under Phase Two of the NRP, except for Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Negri Sembilan, Kedah, Johor, Melaka and Putrajaya.

Other restrictions that were lifted nationwide for fully vaccinated individuals were interstate and inter-district travel for parents to meet their children under 18 years old, while prayers were allowed at places of worship subject to existing SOPs.

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