The government and the Ministry of Health (MOH) should start phasing out the need for the public to check in on their MySejahtera apps, as we approach endemicity and learn to live with Covid-19.
This is important, considering the government’s plan to open up national borders and lessen existing restrictions.
The main purpose for the check-in feature was for contact tracing, and it was important then, when our strategy was containment, and even mitigation.
However, now with standard operating procedures being changed by the MOH, when quarantine is no longer needed for close contacts, and testing strategy is only for the symptomatic, this function has little epidemiological value.
While privacy is an argument against the need for continuous ‘surveillance’, the main issue is the epidemiological value it has, especially when it comes to protocols during endemicity.
Millions of Malaysians have rigorously obliged with the government’s directive to check in with MySejahtera, and many were even fined thousands of ringgit for not doing so. But how many cases were actually detected, and the public notified through this supposed contact tracing feature?
The effectiveness of this function is in question, and the government should clarify the statistics and percentage of cases detected through the MySejahtera contact-tracing mechanism.
This will also help address some of the concerns the public may have when it comes to data privacy and data ownership, as such check-ins are no longer entered into the app.
With that said, the government must clarify these concerns, and allow the MySejahtera deals to be investigated by an independent commission to ensure that strict governance and accountability will be applied, especially when dealing with such vast amounts of highly sensitive personal data.
This does not mean that MySejahtera does not have a role to play in the future, especially when it comes to pandemic management. Such contact tracing features could be upgraded in preparation for future pandemics, and reactivated when the time comes to ensure we do not fall behind again in controlling the spread of any infectious disease.
MySejahtera can also be converted into a “green pass system”. Under the green pass, only individuals whose statuses are ‘green’ on MySejahtera will be permitted to carry out permitted activities as stipulated by the government, especially when it comes to travel, quarantine durations, or proving the validity of your Covid-19 test results in order to gain entry to certain venues.
Citizens can flash their statuses to authorities at entry points, rather than scan QR codes. If needed, the authorities can scan QR codes randomly to verify the authenticity of vaccination certificates, or even test results for monitoring and enforcement purposes.
For this to happen and to better protect the authenticity of such certificates, a blockchain system must be adopted. There are allegations that MySejahtera can be easily hacked and statuses can be easily altered.
This is why a verification mechanism through blockchain is very important. Furthermore, it is already being used for inter-country vaccine certificate recognition.
As we move towards endemicity, our strategy must change, and different official requirements must be backed by data and science, and enhanced with epidemiological value.
That is why I strongly believe the government must phase out the check-in function on MySejahtera and divert all the millions of ringgit intended to finance the app’s upgrade, to invest in the health care system capacity.
Dr Kelvin Yii is the Member of Parliament for Bandar Kuching.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.