So when will it be over?

In certain areas where there are persons with disabilities, we go to their places, and this approach is to ensure success in our fight against Covid-19.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Prime Minister

Well, let’s just have a quick recap.

A Public Health Emergency of International Concern was declared on January 30 2020 by the World Health Organisation (WHO). On March 11 2020 WHO declared there was a Covid-19 pandemic.

Sarawak recorded its first Covid-19 cases on March 13 2020 and on March 17 2020 recorded the nation’s first Covid-19 death.

The first movement control order lockdown commenced on March 18 to 31 2020.

As of the time of writing a total of 59,800 Covid-19 infections have been recorded and 380 deaths

A total of 1,484,304 people here have registered to be vaccinated and as of the time of writing 570,994 have been fully vaccinated at the 98 vaccination centres in Sarawak, which is 28 percent of the targeted vaccinated population. Another 181,690 have received their dose 2.

The number of people being vaccinated has been increasing rapidly. Those who are 18 years old and above have already started receiving their vaccines. Therefore, all those eligible are now receiving their vaccine.

The Sarawak government has gone to great lengths to secure more vaccine supplies and with this recent increase in vaccine supply, we will see more Sarawakians being protected against the ravages of the Covid-19 virus.

A target of 80 percent of the population has been set to achieve herd immunity. This will now be made easier to achieve since the recent announcement that those between 12 to 17 years old will also be eligible for vaccination.

Since not all are familiar with the term ‘Herd immunity, WHO defines it as “the indirect protection from an infectious disease that happens when a population is immune either through vaccination or immunity developed through previous infection”.

WHO’s stated approach is that it “supports achieving ‘herd immunity’ through vaccination”, rather than through previous infection as that would result in unnecessary cases and deaths.

To speed things along we could of course make vaccination compulsory. However, from my perspective, we have to tread carefully on such an approach. This is more of a tool used by authoritarian regimes.

A University Malaya medical student recently claimed that she was barred from sitting for the qualifying examination because she had not been vaccinated. She later lodged a police report.

In a democracy like ours, we need to foster a higher degree of trust to encourage societal compliance via awareness and incentives rather than forced vaccinations.

With a higher degree of trust, we can achieve higher vaccination rates and, in the process, also nullify the effect of fake news.

We can also encourage those who have been vaccinated to become vaccination ambassadors. I am sure you would agree that vaccinated persons are in a good position to convince family and friends of the need to be vaccinated.

So now after almost 16 months of major disruption to our lives due to the pandemic, many are wondering when will all this end.

It is important to note that consensus seems to be building towards accepting that the virus will be with us for some time to come and that the ‘zero-tolerance approach would not be difficult to sustain and is not practical if nations are to open up their economies fully.

In Israel, about 60 percent of its 9 million population have been fully vaccinated and according to reports, life is normalising at a fast pace with sporting events taking place, restaurants and bars opening with face-to-face classes already in progress.

Similarly, high vaccination rates will give Sarawak the advantage to fully reopen its economy again without the need for any further lockdowns and allow its economic life to revive.

However, even when herd immunity is achieved let us all maintain a high state of vigilance. With the spread of the various Covid-19 variants and new ones on the horizon revaccination programs would also become the norm.

Let’s hope that the transition from pandemic to endemic will be soon and thereafter through continuous vaccinations, on-going hygiene practises and close monitoring we can go back towards a normalised society, albeit with some new normal and fresh perspectives in our approach to life.

So, it seems that the Covid-19 will not disappear anytime soon.

However, perhaps we can see an end to the pandemic stage of the Covid-19 virus in 2021.

Together with the collaboration of all Sarawakians, we can make it happen.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.