MPs concerned over Selangor’s entry into phase 2 of recovery plan

HEALTH experts and lawmakers have warned Putrajaya to tread cautiously over its target to move Selangor into the second phase of the National Recovery Plan (NRP) next month as the state is still a virus hotbed reporting an average of 6,000 Covid-19 cases daily.
They said vaccines are not silver bullets and people can still contract the virus after getting vaccinated.Pandamaran assemblyman Tony Leong Tuck Chee told The Malaysian Insight that the situation in Klang, Selangor is still serious with over 2,000 new cases logged a day.

The number of new cases in Selangor had been trending between the 5,000 and 8,000 mark in recent weeks and reached a peak of 8,792 cases on August 6.

Leong said he was concerned that the situation could worsen if more economic sectors are allowed to open.

“The number of deaths is still very high. In recent days, there were between 200 and 300 deaths a day or more. And even if we have completed two doses of the vaccine, there will still be cases of infections or even deaths. This is not a joke.”

Although the food and beverage industry has now been allowed to operate, many restaurant workers have contracted the virus, which has also led to a temporary halt in operations.

“We have a WhatsApp group in the F&B industry, and there are constant updates of employees who have contracted the virus. So the industry is very worried,” he said.

“Although the Health Ministry only requires the premises to be closed for three days after a case is detected for sanitisation, some simply closed for 21 days to ensure safety.”

He said many roadside stalls and restaurants are currently closed and most businesses in the Port Klang area have chosen to suspend operations, adding while he understood the need to strike a balance between lives and livelihoods, it is still unsafe to reopen in many areas.

“It should be based on the standard set before, (Selangor) should have less than 2,000 cases per day before the transition. After all, the number of confirmed cases is still very high,” Leong said.

He said the Tengku Ampuan Rahimah hospital in Klang is also facing a manpower crunch due to the high number of cases brought about from close contacts, which indicates that the virus is in the community.

“We don’t know if we will come into contact with silent carriers when we go out, so that’s why we decided to hold a mass screening event in the constituency at the end of this month.

“This is also the fifth screening exercise in the district. I hope we can detect asymptomatic patients and get them treated,” Leong said.

Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari recently said the state is ready to move to phase 2 of the recovery plan in September as 98% of its adult population have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

He added that hospital admissions have also been on the decline.

Klang MP Charles Santiago, however, said there should not be a blanket reopening of all sectors as the state looks into entering phase 2.

Instead, Santiago said, the authorities should look into opening up more sectors according to districts that are less affected.

“The state should look into opening districts in phases by conducting strict checks on the number of infections, state of hospitals and vaccination rate,” he said.

“They should focus on the districts and see if the areas are ready to be opened.”

Santiago also said an independent body should be set up by medical experts to conduct the checks.

“They (medical experts) must come from outside the system and not part of the state government.

“This oversight body can then advise which districts should be allowed to open.”

Santiago said there hads been 60,000 cases in the larger Klang area between July 21 and August 26.

Balakong assemblyman Wong Siew Ki questions if Malaysia’s 80% herd immunity target is a realistic goal as foreigners and undocumented migrants have not been factored in. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, August 27, 2021.
Balakong assemblyman Wong Siew Ki questions if Malaysia’s 80% herd immunity target is a realistic goal as foreigners and undocumented migrants have not been factored in. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, August 27, 2021.

Strict adherence to SOP

University Putra Malaysia medical and public health faculty expert Assoc Prof Dr Malina Osman said standard operating procedure (SOP) must be strictly adhered to if Selangor is to move into phase 2 of the recovery plan.

“In my opinion, as long as SOP is continuously maintained and adhered to, it should not be a big issue.”

She also said that in order to proceed to phase 2, the healthcare system must be in order.

“As long as the healthcare system is no longer in a compromised state and able to function as usual, then it would be alright to proceed.”

Dine-in for fully vaccinated individuals are now allowed in phase 1 states.

Meanwhile, Balakong state rep Wong Siew Ki felt that a continuous state of lockdown will not help the already-battered economy.

“I hope Selangor can enter the second phase of recovery, but it must be with conditions, such as only allowing fully vaccinated people to enter premises 14 days after the second dose, and continuous public health measures.”

Wong also questioned if Malaysia’s 80% herd immunity target is a realistic goal as foreigners and undocumented migrants have not been factored in.

“Almost every apartment complex in the Balakong constituency has residents who are undocumented migrants. They are living below the poverty line, and they are not concerned about getting vaccinated as they only want to survive,” she said.

“We have to apply for vaccination and it is not done from house-to-house, so will missing it be considered as breaching pandemic laws?”

She reiterated that even if more areas are opened up, compliance to SOP must continue.

“I am also worried about the virus constantly mutating and whether the vaccines could be effective against it. For safety reasons, I think we must continue to abide by the standard operating procedure for the next two to three years.”

Former deputy health minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said that as long as Selangor’s vaccination programme progresses well, hospital admissions and severe illness rates will drop.

“It is possible to have Selangor transition into the next phase this month or next month.”

He reminded that although adults have been vaccinated, they must ensure the younger ones who are not eligible for vaccination are protected.

“You must wear face masks, maintain physical distance and continue to wash your hands frequently. All these measures must be taken.”

He said F&B workers must be prioritised for vaccination when dining in allowed.

“After all, once dine-in is allowed, customers will take off their face masks to eat and the industry will be at a higher risk.”