Focus on weekly mass testing, not on relaxing restrictions

Govt mulls flexibility for companies that have completed vaccinating their employees to be fully operational


THE government should focus on weekly Covid-19 testing at schools and workplaces to ensure people can gradually return to normalcy, instead of easing restrictions for those who are fully vaccinated.

Centre for Market Education (CME) CEO Dr Carmelo Ferlito said mass testings enable early detections of the virus and avoid development of critical symptoms for those who are positive.

“For starters, maybe it is best to work with weekly testing in schools and the workplace. This is the best way to allow operations to resume.

“It also means that the government needs to invest in additional hospital beds, oxygen tanks and other supplies because by doing frequent testing, there will be more detection and therefore the healthcare system needs to be able to handle higher infections and develop a home-care system for those with mild Covid-19 symptoms,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) yesterday.

In a statement yesterday, CME said there has yet to be completed studies on the currently available vaccines, despite it being an integral part to fight against the virus.

It noted that the consequences of vaccination on particular categories of individuals at risk such as cancer patients require further assessment.

A mass, frequent and affordable testing is also non-discriminatory towards individuals who may feel at risk by getting vaccinated, it said.

“More than vaccines, it can reflect an evolutionary individual situation, whereby a negative subject could become positive the week after, and the vaccine is not able to avoid this.

“It supplies a more dynamic framework as we know that vaccines have limited time efficacy, with less logistic troubles and therefore would allow a faster return to normalcy,” noted CME.

Last week, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said the government could consider easing restrictions for individuals who are fully vaccinated amid concerns of declining economic activities and rising unemployment.

He said relaxation may include interstate travel or dine-in at restaurants.

Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister for the National Recovery Council Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz said the government is also considering flexibility for companies that have completed vaccinating their employees to be fully operational.

Details on the eased restrictions will be finalised soon, said the minister in a statement last Friday.

Schools are also scheduled to gradually reopen on Sept 1 with home-based teaching and learning to continue until Aug 31.

The Education Ministry said the decision will be implemented at all government and government-aided schools, private schools and education institutions registered with the ministry.

Meanwhile, SME Association of Malaysia national VP Chin Chee Seong opined that it will be safe for the government to ease restrictions for fully vaccinated individuals, although the number of cases are still high.

He cited England as an example, whereby despite recording up to 50,000 cases every day, those who have been double-jabbed proved the effectiveness of the vaccine even in combating the Delta variant.

“The government should consider allowing companies to resume full operations, under strict standard operating procedures (SOPs), with 70% of the workers getting complete vaccine doses,” he told TMR.

As of July 16, a total of 4.3 million individuals or 13.5% of the population have been fully vaccinated, while 9.32 million or 29.2% have received at least one dose.