The decision of the government not to test asymptomatic close contacts is an attempt to manipulate Covid-19 infection figures.
Such a decision is dangerous, especially given that children under 12 years old have not been vaccinated. A majority of adolescents between 12 and 17 years old are also unvaccinated.
Even if the government wants to move to an endemic phase, testing must go on.
The Sarawak government seems to be taking pride in the current low death rate among Covid-19 patients. Such an attitude is most unbecoming, since one life lost is one life too many.
Although the current death rate may be low, it is many times more than the deaths registered during the first year of the pandemic.
Therefore, the fight against Covid-19 is still not over, especially when our children are still vulnerable and the effectiveness of vaccine protection for those fully vaccinated will decrease over time.
While we acknowledge the need to open up the economy, certain measures must be adopted to minimise the risk of infection, illness and death. Surely, reducing testing is not the right way.
To open up the economy, the government must continue with mass testing and adopt a more effective Find, Test, Trace, Isolate and Support (FTTIS) strategy.
Currently, test results will only be released three to five days from the collection of samples. This is far too slow and not acceptable. Those infected would have infected hundreds, if not dozens of others, before their results are made known to them.
This is a big failure on the part of the state government. After more than 18 months of living with the pandemic, it has not made faster test results possible.
This is not a matter of inadequate technology, but a sheer lack of commitment and incompetency on the part of the state government.
The other area that needs improvement is the collection of quarantine wristbands by untested close contacts. They are made to queue at the collection centres for hours before they are given their wristbands. This will unnecessarily expose them to infection.
The government should utilise the MySejahtera app as a virtual quarantine wristband, and bar those undergoing home quarantine from going outside.
To conclude, there should be an effective FTTIS strategy, and booster shots for adults and vaccination for adolescents should be introduced as soon as possible.
The sooner the state government can get their act together, the faster we can open up our economy. Manipulation and suppression of the real figures is not the right way to go.
Chong Chieng Jen is Sarawak DAP chairman.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.