5:39pm 14/10/2021
Three strategies to live with the virus

Sin Chew Daily

Defense minister Hishammuddin said on Tuesday the government would adopt three strategies to guide the country into the phase of living with the virus.

This is a necessary process as the world is prepared to enter the endemic phase from a global pandemic. However, this does not mean the virus outbreak is no more serious or that people will not get easily infected. It simply marks a phased strategy after almost two years of catastrophic assault from the virus.

So what is a strategy? It is the best possible tactic to be adopted to realize the objective of living with the virus, which will produce the most optimal results with minimal impact.

One of the strategies proposed by Hishammuddin is “targeted control” in which the health ministry will formulate a warning system that will prompt the authorities to take more effective measures targeted at specific areas witnessing a spike in new COVID-19 cases.

The second strategy is to impart the right “virus awareness” in the general public. Malaysians must come to terms with the reality that we must live with the virus. That said, we must be constantly reminded that the virus is still lethally transmissive and risky and we simply cannot afford to overlook its menace.

The third strategy is “community empowerment”. Simply put, the community or people will be empowered to work alongside the enforcement agencies to curtail the spread of the virus and mutually monitor the SOP compliance.

The public must understand that the risk of community transmission remains high following the liberalization of interstate travel restrictions. While vaccination for all Malaysians is the fundamental approach in our ongoing battle against the virus, the next thing to do is for the authorities and the public to work together to break the infection chain.

When more and more people get vaccinated (or infected), the antibody will be present inside the body of majority of people, creating a “herd immunity” effect. Eventually the virus may just vanish altogether. But of course, it will always stage a comeback sometime later.

During the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, almost 25% of the world’s population then was infected with 50 million killed. That was nevertheless only the first of three major H1N1-induced pandemics, the other two being the Russian flu in 1977 and the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, which were by comparison much milder.

So, when are we going to declare that the country will officially transition to the endemic phase? Hishammuddin said we have a date but it is not yet time to announce it. We believe this will happen sometime after early next month.

According to a Susceptible-Exposed-Infectious-Removed (SEIR) model posted recently by health minister Khairy Jamaluddin on Twitter, the last deflection (upward or downward) took place on May 21. And with over 90% of the country’s adult population now vaccinated and interstate travel ban lifted, the next deflection will likely happen in late October, after which it could be the right time to announce the transition to the endemic phase.

We should look at the development of the pandemic after the October 11 relaxation of travel bans with certain degree of optimism. On October 12, the daily new infection number was below 10k for a tenth consecutive day while the number of deaths reported on the same day was under a hundred.

Another important indicator is the below 5% positivity rate for two straight days, conforming to the WHO standard and way lower than the 14%-15% recorded in August and September. This marks a true turning point in the containment of the virus.

There are two important tasks we need to accomplish as we make the transition to the endemic phase: vaccination for youths between 12 and 18 of age, and a third booster dose for senior citizens aged 60 and above and vulnerable communities who have been previously given CanSino or Sinovac vaccines, as per the recommendation of WHO.

We feel that this has nothing to do with politics or race but is just a kind reminder. We hope the government will take into consideration the recommendation by WHO to make sure the antibody inside every vaccinated individual’s body is reliable in countering the virus.




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