Time for economic sectors to reopen

Datuk Sim Kiang Chiok

KUCHING: If hospitals are not overwhelmed and the healthcare system can cope with low admission rates, it is time for the government to ease the lockdown to allow more economic activities to operate so that more livelihoods can be saved, said Datuk Sim Kiang Chiok.

Sim, who is Sarawak Housing and Real Estate Developers’ Association (Sheda) Kuching branch chairman, clarified that he was sharing his personal opinion on this matter and that his statement did not represent the views of any associations he was a member of. 

“The long lockdown can harm the economy more than the virus if more relaxations are not forthcoming.

“Of course, with the infection rates that are high, the standard operating procedures (SOPs) must be strictly adhered to by all businesses, factories, and so on,” he said in a statement yesterday (Sept 15).

He said this when commenting on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s recent statement that the government’s decision to reopen more economic sectors was made as the lockdown move was no longer appropriate and feared to have more implications, including on mental health.

Sim said the mutation of the Covid-19 virus and the emergence of the highly infectious Delta variant in the country had shifted the goal posts in handling the pandemic.

“Instead of getting 70 to 80 percent of our population vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, the goal is now to vaccinate up to 90 percent of our population to give everyone protection from serious illness from Covid-19 as the vaccine can protect the inoculated against hospitalisation and death from virus infection,” he said.

He pointed out that although daily infection rates were high, cases requiring hospitalisation were much less and hospitals were not overwhelmed.

“Our vaccination rate in Sarawak is over 90 percent for the adult population and we are vaccinating most of our youth and teenagers by the end of October to achieve 90 percent vaccination for the total population,” he said.

As such, he opined that by the end of October, Sarawak should be able to shift into Phase 4 of the National Recovery Plan (NRP) where most economic activities were allowed with little restrictions.

“The sooner we open up, the better our chance of recovery for our economy, and less bankruptcy or business failure which will also affect the employment rate badly,” he said.

With regard to mental health, he agreed with the prime minister that the lockdown was affecting mental health.

“It can cause depression due to loss of employment or source of income as well as isolation from family and friends,” he said.

Sim also noted that Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah had recently said that the Covid-19 pandemic had become one of the main factors impacting mental health.

“It is time we live with the virus as most of the population will be vaccinated and will have protection against severe illness and hospitalisation from Covid-19 infection,” he added, stressing on the importance of keeping to the SOPs to curb the spread of new Covid-19 variants.