In new policy position paper, DAP says govt must switch from ‘zero Covid-19’ goal to ‘living with Covid-19’

(Photo by Suhaimi Yusuf/The Edge filepix)

(Photo by Suhaimi Yusuf/The Edge filepix)

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KUALA LUMPUR (July 25): The Democratic Action Party (DAP) has launched a policy position paper today, where it proposed the government should change the aim of its pandemic management strategy to living with Covid-19, instead of completely eradicating the disease.

The DAP said in a statement that the “new normal” is not about living with perpetual lockdowns in their various forms, but about how Malaysia can adopt measures to minimise and mitigate the presence and impact of Covid-19 within the community while reopening most, if not all social and economic activities.

“Malaysia must prepare itself by drawing from the experiences of other countries, learning from their successes, while being mindful not to repeat their and Perikatan Nasional’s past mistakes,” it said.

The DAP has proposed a comprehensive strategy for pandemic mitigation to enable “Living with Covid-19”, which takes a four-pronged approach – namely to control and mitigate the current wave of infections; readiness to meet future outbreaks; open up social and economic sectors with safety catches; putting in place medium-term strategies on dealing with Covid-19.

“In addition to addressing the nation’s immediate health and economic concerns by presenting a concrete exit strategy from the disruptive continuous lockdowns, these recommendations also serve as essential building blocks to pave the way ahead for longer term structural reforms that Malaysia urgently needs.

“If we plan carefully and strategically, the country can emerge stronger and better than before having ‘build back Malaysia better’,” it said.

To control and mitigate the current wave of infection, the DAP proposed that the government put in place a comprehensive “Find, Test, Trace, Isolate, Support+Vaccination” (FTTIS+V) national strategy, adjust the processes and procedures at the Covid Assessment Centres (CACs), adjust current vaccination strategies as new information becomes available, and target vulnerable communities for testing and vaccination.

“With the number of positive cases exceeding 10,000 per day and a positive rate in the region of 10%, the immediate priority of the government is to bring the current wave of infections under control.

“This is especially for the serious cases (Category 3 to 5), which have the direct impact of putting our public healthcare system under tremendous pressure,” it said.

On readiness to meet future outbreaks, it suggested for the government to strengthen existing healthcare facilities and capabilities; using targeted testing and lockdown in high-risk areas; implementing smarter standard operating procedures (SOPs) at workplaces according to the type of workplace and accommodation quarters; better use of data and Covid-19 detection systems; better working relationship and sharing of resources between the federal, state and local governments; and including elected representatives as part of the strategy to control potential outbreaks.

“We expect the number of Covid-19 positive cases, especially the serious ones, to come under control, as the number of vaccinated Malaysians reach a critical mass. The strain on the public healthcare system will then be correspondingly reduced.

“However, the authorities must make use of this breathing space to prepare for potential outbreaks that will still occur from time to time in different places across different states, due to various reasons such as Covid-19 variants, tourism activities or unvaccinated undocumented migrants in states with porous borders like Sabah,” it said.

The DAP added that the government must not repeat the same mistake with earlier movement control orders (MCOs) last year, whereby there were no steps taken to improve the state of readiness to meet bigger and more serious outbreaks in the country.

Meanwhile, in conjunction with the opening up of the economy, as the vaccination rate increases and the number of serious Covid-19 cases and related deaths decreases, it said steps should be taken, including better and more targeted indicators; “smarter” reopening of the economy; opening up of certain sectors with certain privileges and incentives; bold fiscal measures to boost delivery and recovery; and adopting a “whole of society, all of government” approach.

Moving beyond this year and even next, the government should discuss the medium-term strategies on dealing with Covid-19, such as infrastructure and policies for mass inoculation of the adult population with Covid-19 vaccines and booster shots; comprehensive studies and monitoring the long-term impact of Covid-19; decentralise the management of Covid-19 to respective state governments; and to include more experts in decentralised decision-making processes.

“Now is the time to act by implementing the comprehensive pandemic mitigation strategy. The strategy focus must shift from case eradication to safely living with Covid-19 as an endemic. The existing modus operandi of endless lockdowns in pursuit of ‘Zero Covid-19’ with unclear SOPs, clearly does not work,” it said.

In combating this invisible and pervasive enemy, DAP also said it is important to follow the science, while mobilising a cohesive whole-of-government response across its many ministries and agencies.

According to the party, the current administration should continuously consult and include opposition policymakers, wide ranging experts, business stakeholders, members of civil society and non-governmental organisations in formulating streamlined pandemic management measures, as well as serving the people effectively and efficiently.

“Quick, decisive action would give us a fighting chance to weather the twin health and economic crises that we are currently in, setting the stage for us to learn to live with the virus for the next year or so, and likely beyond 2022,” it said.

Lam Jian Wyn