Govt urged to postpone relaxing restrictions

Govt urged to postpone relaxing restrictions

The government has been urged to reconsider the relaxed restrictions, which health experts deem as “premature” and potentially “dangerous”.

The Malaysian Health Coalition (MHC)said while it understood that the country needed to reopen and provide some privileges for fully-vaccinated people, it urged, among others, for the government to postpone the relaxed restrictions to a time-point defined by strict evidence.

It also cited four main reasons as to why the decision to relax restrictions was premature, including that the country was still inadequately vaccinated.

“Only 27 per cent of our resident population of all ages are fully vaccinated, and this excludes undocumented migrants. Chile only relaxed restrictions after 50 per cent coverage, and Singapore is targeting relaxed restrictions at 70 per cent coverage.

Vaccinating against infodemic
“There is vaccine inequality in Malaysia. The 27 per cent average hides a wide range, from 12 per cent in Sabah to 59 per cent in Labuan.

“Indeed, only five regions are above 27 per cent (Labuan, Sarawak, Negeri Sembilan, Lembah Klang and Perlis),” said MHC in a statement today.

It added that the country was still seeing thousands of daily cases, over-utilised intensive care units, general hospital wards, Emergency Departments and quarantine centres.

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These indices, it said, were not currently publicly available at a detailed level, and must be used to guide the National Recovery Plan (NRP).

“The Delta variant is likely the dominant variant in Malaysia (although genomic testing remains low).

“The Delta variant is more transmissible than the wild-type SARS-CoV-2, and current vaccines have reduced effectiveness against Delta.

“Breakthrough infections in vaccinated persons may be as transmissible as unvaccinated persons.

“Therefore, we believe that these relaxed restrictions are premature and can be dangerous.”

The MHC proposed postponing the relaxation to a time determined by a clear set of publicised criteria, where scientific and public health criteria for relaxation were built by health experts without interference.

It said they can include criteria such as “fully vaccinated rate equivalent to or more than 70 per cent of the total population; total critical care bed occupancy rate for Covid-19 of equivalent to or less than 90 per cent; total daily new cases equivalent to or less than 4,000 with share of positive tests equivalent to or less than 5 per cent” and other criteria.

These criteria, MHC added, must be publicised today so that any future decisions will be solely based on evidence.

It also said the government should provide more clarity on relaxed rules, including clarifying the specifics of relaxed restrictions as blanket vaccine privileges would create “loopholes” that would impede the NRP.

“For example, the government must answer questions like: What is the rationale to allow home quarantine for vaccinated travellers, how long is the quarantine, and how will we monitor?

“How do we close the loopholes that may allow “inter-state vacations on the pretext of visiting our children”?” it asked.

The MHC urged the government to implement evidence-based policies for the NRP, calling for authorities to publicise their evidence and projections, and explain their rationale for these decisions.

“Otherwise, the people will be left guessing if we are truly making policies based on evidence.

“Markers of the NRP must be grounded in science and must be predictable.

“Although the pandemic is dynamic, changing the NRP markers too frequently and without good explanations may lead to concerns that decisions are political instead of evidence-based.” Nst

Govt urged to postpone relaxing restrictions

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