Employ precision public health for safe exit and consequent election planning

In the months following the Sabah state election, an unprecedented Emergency Ordinance was issued to prevent further volatility that could bring irreversible consequences to the health system.

As a result, Sarawak's state election has been postponed until after the Ordinance expires on 1 August 2021.

It is critical and crucial that adequate public health measures are in place and clear health indicators are met before any election is called, whether at the state or federal level. Otherwise, the efforts of the past six months will be for moot.

The Health and Sciences COVID-19 Advisory Group of Experts' (EAG) ground scan reveals that there are challenges in policy implementation and systemic gaps that prevent a true whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach.

Moreover, the National Recovery Plan announced on 15 June 2021 lacks specificity and detail that will allow us to exit the pandemic effectively and safely.

Doing so requires the following:

1. Trustworthy and competent leadership and governance.

2. Effective, efficient, and inclusive vaccine roll out.

3. Automation and digital Find Test Trace Isolate Support (FTTIS).

4. Science-based decision-making and forward direction.

Employing precision public health involves the decision to introduce, adapt or lift public health and social measures should be based primarily on a situational assessment of the intensity of transmission and the capacity of the health system to respond, but must also be considered in terms of the effects these measures may have on the general welfare of society and individuals.

Democratic processes must indeed continue; however, the upsurge in cases after the Sabah state elections showed that all public health measures must remain robust and durable even if community transmission is low.

Therefore, the EAG continues to hold out for no election until Malaysia reaches and maintains low transmission rates boosted by high vaccination rates and an overall safe economic and social space for managing the pandemic.

The EAG has forwarded its technical public health recommendations to the Prime Minister and Ministry of Health, providing detailed proposals for strengthening the current pandemic response strategy in accordance with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.

It is therefore our expectation that the government incorporates the external expert opinion in its Recovery Plan to ensure a decisive, effective exit.

Members of the Health and Sciences COVID-19 Advisory Group of Experts:

1. Tan Sri Dato' Dr Abu Bakar Suleiman, Chairman

2. Professor Dr Rosmawati Mohamed, Academy of Medicine of Malaysia

3. Dr Mary Cardosa, Malaysian Medical Association

4. Dato' Dr Fadzilah Kamaludin, Malaysian Public Health Physicians' Association

5. Datuk Dr Kuljit Singh, Association of Private Hospitals of Malaysia

6. Datuk Dr Christopher Lee, Malaysian Society of Infection Control and Infectious Diseases

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