Sin Chew Daily
Khairy Jamaluddin set the 26 KPIs to be accomplished within his first 100 days in office as soon as he took over the health ministry. He was among the first ministers to have laid down their KPIs, including 27 KPIs for the prime minister’s department.
This shows the enthusiasm of a newly appointed minister which we believe will very soon be emulated by his cabinet colleagues in hope of producing more presentable 100-day report cards for their respective departments.
The health ministry’s 26 KPIs can be largely divided into four categories: issues related to COVID-19 vaccination and containment of the pandemic; sugar tax; malnutrition among children; and the issue of contract doctors.
Of the 26 indicators, 23 are related to the pandemic. Indeed, it has become the common goal of all Malaysians to put the pandemic under control within the first 100 days of the new government, as it is the single prerequisite for us to fully open up our economy again and for students to go back to their schools safety. Because of the pandemic, the national economy has taken a severe beating and our mortal lives and livelihoods have been put under constant menace.
Before we discuss the KPIs set by the health ministry, perhaps we should first look at the numbers and objective external evaluations that should serve as points of reference when we assess the minister’s performance in battling the virus after 100 days.
In Nikkei Asia’s COVID-19 Recovery Index for August, Malaysia was ranked 115th (seventh from the bottom) with a meagre score of 34. We believe we will not rank any worse than this three months down the road. And if we trust the credibility of Nikkei Asia’s ranking, then Khairy has this obligation to drastically improve our ranking to about 50th, with a score of at least 55, for the simple reason that the better the ranking, the closer we are to full restoration of our “old ways of living”, with significantly lower daily new infection numbers and enviable vaccination rates.
As of September 6, the country recorded a cumulative total of more than 1.86 million COVID-19 cases and 18,491 deaths, with daily new infections hovering around the 20k mark and between 250 and 300 daily new deaths. These numbers are sadly among the world’s highest, and as health DG Noor Hisham has said, the situation is “still not safe yet”.
How we are going to improve the Nikkei COVID-19 Recovery Index and global pandemic ranking will be the shared responsibility of the new government and all Malaysians. And to achieve this, Khairy as the chief architect of the health ministry’s 100-day KPIs has an irrefutable responsibility to shoulder.
Of the health ministry’s 26 KPIs, only seven are quantifiable and the bar has been set rather low actually. Khairy not only needs to achieve, but also to exceed these targets.
Among them the goal of achieving full vaccination for 80% of the country’s adult population. Given the 36.43 million doses already administered so far, we will only need to administer another 15.82 million doses to reach that target. And given the daily vaccination rate of around 300,000 doses, we will only need 53 days to reach the goal. Even if we were to set the target at 90%, we will need not more than 75 days!
Secondly, vaccination for some 3.3 million teenagers between 12 and 17 of age. So, is the ministry targeting only at least one dose for each of the people in this age bracket, or full vaccination for at least 80% of them within 100 days? Going by the daily vaccination rate of 300,000 doses, to fully vaccinate 90% if adults and 80% of youngsters aged between 12 and 17 within 100 days is not really that difficult after all.
Thirdly, the mortality rate has now dropped from 2.1% to 1.5%, and if we were to bring the daily death numbers to double digits, the mortality rate will have to go down to 0.8% or lower. If we fail to cap the mortality rate, the total number of deaths will likely breach the 30,000-mark in 100 days, from over 18,000 now.
While Khairy is indeed working very hard, there are still hurdles ahead, including the large army of migrant workers here, both legal and undocumented. If schools are to reopen for physical lessons, how high are the risks for teachers, students and their parents to get infected? What are the possible risks if most business sectors are allowed to operate again? What about the risks from people who are yet to be vaccinated or stubbornly against inoculation?
Experiences tell us that it is inevitable for the virus to eventually enter the “endemic” stage, but only if the entire population is fully vaccinated, with a third dose incorporated in our national immunisation programme for 2022.
Israel is the first country in the world to administer a third dose of the vaccine for its citizens. As of end-August, of the 1.1 million people receiving three doses each, only 88 (0.008%) had experienced serious illness from the virus infection, with 15 deaths (0.0014%). Going by the normal death rates, this should constitute near full immunity!
Fighting the virus is a long-standing mission. It is our hope that this country of ours will eventually be emancipated from the scourge of the virus after the health minister accomplishes the goals for his first 100 days in office and with the administration of the third doses completed.