A ZERO-TOLERANCE approach may not be a tenable solution in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.
InvestPenang said that higher inoculation rates, coupled with agile health protocols that accommodate the latest developments and elevated efforts in testing and tracing could allow the cautious reopening of the economy without putting strains on the healthcare system.
“Rationalising some of the existing standard operating procedures (SOPs) and introducing more targeted measures are key to markedly contain the spread of the virus and simultaneously, providing a breathing space to strategise the exit plans for Malaysia and Penang,” it said in a statement.
“The strategic formulation is a way to minimise damages and striking a balance between lives and livelihoods.”
As such, constant engagements between the State government and all levels of private sectors are crucial as policy formulation and implementation on the ground complement each other.
Chaired by Datuk Seri Lee Kah Choon who is special investment advisor to the Penang chief minister, InvestPenang organised a dialogue between industry representatives and Bukit Mertajam MP Steven Sim to understand the state’s strategies and exchange views on the way forward.
During the meeting, Sim had shared several immediate actions in ebbing the repercussion, among them the launch of a virtual COVID-19 Assessment Centre (CAC) to ensure efficient management response, vaccination for migrant workers, as well as further enhancement on COVID-19 statistics disclosure and communications with the public.
Other actions include expanding hospital capacity by building a field hospital with 100 beds, setting up risk assessor teams to audit, monitor and assess the risks at workplaces, factories and construction sites, vaccination for teenagers, as well as improving Penang’s COVID-19 hotline service.
“Throughout the meeting, industry representatives recognised the State’s efforts in tamping down COVID-19 infections and all parties are aligned on the need to review some of the existing SOPs,” said InvestPenang.
Several recommendations were highlighted to better address a highly vaccinated, endemic environment going forward:
- Simplify the SOPs and approval process for business travelers to boost investors’ confidence in Malaysia’s readiness to reopen;
- Given the increasing vaccination rate among the employees of the private sectors, the blanket mandatory bi-weekly mass testing requirement should be reviewed. At the same time, a more comprehensive mechanism for community testing is deemed necessary;
- Gradual reopening of schools, colleges and universities with the ramping up effort on vaccination for adolescents, as the prolonged closure of educational institutions can potentially worsen the talent gap; and
- Total factory shutdown should apply only to companies with severe SOP non-compliance.
“A whole-of-society effort is required to work towards treating COVID-19 as an endemic.
“With the new coordination framework, the Penang state government hopes to strengthen the ties with the Federal Government in making inroads towards normalcy.” – Sept 16, 2021.