State must meet these conditions first

Dr Jerome Kueh Swee Hui

KUCHING: Sarawak has to meet several critical conditions before it can reopen its economy and move on to the next phase of the National Recovery Plan (NRP), said Dr Jerome Kueh Swee Hui.

The Deputy Dean of Industry and Community Engagement in the Faculty of Economics and Business, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) said the timing to reopen the economy was crucial to ensure that the economy was resilient and could sustain itself in the long run.

“The welfare of the people will also be a priority. Hence, the consequences of hastening to reopen the economy will further dampen the situation if the critical conditions are not met,” he said when contacted by New Sarawak Tribune on Sunday (July 4).

He pointed out that among the critical conditions were the number of active cases daily, the capacity of Intensive Care Units (ICUs), and the progress of vaccination rate among the population.

However, the most important criterion was the vaccination rate among the people and the administering of 60,000 vaccine doses daily.

“At present, 1,151,744 first dose vaccinations have been completed. The effort by the state government in acquiring the vaccine and coordinating the vaccination programme for the people of Sarawak (urban and rural areas) is remarkable.

“In addition, several vaccination centres (PPVs) and mobile PPVs have been established to ensure that more people will be vaccinated.

“Therefore, the reopening of the economy should be based on several conditions and the most important now is that the decision must be based on indicators and efforts must be made to achieve the threshold,” he explained.

Kueh added that it was better and more rational for Sarawak to have its own threshold and evaluation. 

“This is due to the fact that each state will experience its own situation. For example, some states have recorded higher number of new Covid-19 cases compared to Sarawak.

“It may not be sensible to assess the situation just based on one general benchmark. If Sarawak has its own evaluation, this will enable the state to address the situation more effectively and efficiently.

“Assuming the number of new cases is declining and the vaccination rate is progressing fast, Sarawak can focus on shifting into the next phase of the NRP.

“Moving into the next phase of the National Recovery Plan (NRP) is essential to ensure that our economy can recover,” he added.

The economy would be revitalised if more sectors were allowed to operate, added Kueh.

“Eventually, this will lead to more job opportunities and mitigate the unemployment rate.  

“In view of the current challenging situation, it is crucial for the evaluation to reopen the economy to be based on the situation in Sarawak.

“Sarawak has comprehensive strategies that are also in line with the strategies of the federal government in handling the Covid-19 pandemic such as the establishment of the PPVs here,” he said.

However, he said one rule did not mean that it would fit all conditions. Kueh stressed that although the vaccination rate could be a good indicator in addition to the other benchmarks, everyone must still adhere to the standard operating procedures (SOPs).