Are we still amid the COVID-19 pandemic?
Just a quick recap. Sarawak recorded its first COVID-19 case on March 13 2022. On March 18 2022, we were placed under lockdown. Between March 2020 and October 2021, we were under various forms of movement control order. After that, most of the COVID-19 SOPs restrictions were gradually lifted, with just a few in place now mostly related to masking in confined areas.
Considering that we are now going about life more or less like before the pandemic, the MCO lockdowns can sometimes seem like a distant memory.
Such as driving a car along virtually empty roads and seeing closed offices and shops with hardly anyone in sight along the way during the lockdowns.
Nowadays, COVID-19 does not seem to be a talking point when we meet with friends and acquaintances.
From my perspective, I would say this is because, overall, the government has done an excellent job with the vaccination programmes. In addition, kudos to the fact that most people adhered to the hygiene SOPs to reduce the COVID-19 infection rate.
To date, 88.7 per cent in Sarawak or 2,504,876 people, have received their first dose; 85.9 per cent or 2,426,094 for their second dose, followed by 55.9 per cent for their first booster shot. However, only 1.3 per cent or 37,556 people have gone for their second booster shot, including me.
Only 15,446 over 60 years of age have had their second booster.
Are we taking it too easy now, especially considering that there are still new emerging variants of COVID-19? Slipping back into old habits such as not masking up and washing hands are perhaps on the rise. I do think many of us, occasionally at least, slip up on this.
At the time of writing this, over the past 14 days, there have been four deaths due to COVID-19 in Sarawak. In percentage terms, that is a 200 per cent increase over the last 14 days.
The number of reported cases over the last seven days has been 114, an increase of 10 per cent. So for the moment, there seems to be an upward trend of COVID-19 infections.
I would venture to guess that the actual figure would be much higher. This would be because some people do not report it after using the COVID-19 self-test kit and finding themselves positive.
So when would the pandemic be over? You may think this is a simple question. However, it is not clear cut based on various opinions on the web, expert or otherwise.
Perhaps a worrying factor now would be that some of us think the pandemic is over.
Nowadays, our shopping malls are packed, parking is a problem and traffic jams are returning to pre-pandemic times. The tourism industry has opened up fully with minimum or no restrictions.
Economically this is good news.
But, I would say that no one in their right mind would declare that the COVID-19 pandemic was nearly over. I will agree with those who say that it surely will still be around for a few more years, at the least.
Whatever the scenario, it is our individual responsibility to take all necessary hygiene precautions to prevent ourselves from getting infected or infecting others.
Economically, many are still feeling the impact of the MCOs and the current downturn in the world economy.
Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg and his team have, over these problematic years, made tremendous efforts to cushion the blows on Sarawakians most affected by the negative impacts of the MCOs and the COVID-19 pandemic.
These efforts have covered many aspects of the lives of Sarawakians, such as support for the vaccination and healthcare programmes, financial aid for eligible individuals and business operators, discounts on utilities and assessment rates.
It was recently announced that another assistance programme, BKSS 9.0, will be rolled out by Abang Johari. The Sarawak government is doing its part to help Sarawakians.
Therefore, let us play our part. With the ever-present threat of the new COVID-19 variants and other unknown or new viruses, such as monkeypox, it would be advisable to carry on with the basic hygiene SOPs such as masking up and washing our hands. At least let’s maintain this new normal for some time to come.
Do get vaccinated if you are eligible, and do carry on keeping Sarawak safe.
The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.