Provide better granular data and policy guidance to boost public confidence in opening up the economy

Provide better granular data and policy guidance to boost public confidence in opening up the economy
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Economic activities have gradually resumed since August. (Photo by Sam Fong/The Edge)

Even though dining-in in the Phase 1 states including the Klang Valley since Aug 20, many restaurants still don’t allow dining in because (i) not all of their workers have been vaccinated (ii) the number of cases in the community is still high so operators are concerned that they and their staff would face a higher chance of infection (iii) customers are still concerned about dining-in because of the high number of reported cases (iv) SOPs on dining-in were not clear (v) it may take some time for restaurant operators to rehire staff which they have let go during MCO 3.0. One way in which the government can build up public confidence for the resumption of economic activity and also put in place better policies to manage COVID19 related healthcare and economic policies is to (i) publish and use more granular data and (ii) process certain COVID19 related information faster especially on the MySejahtera App.

I have outlined FIVE areas where more granular data and faster data processing can lead to better policy guidance and faster economic recover namely:

  1. Publishing the vaccination rate by district over time
  2. Publish the number of active Category 1-5 COVID19 cases by state over time
  3. Publish the ICU capacity and deaths by state over time
  4. Publish the # of COVID19 tests and positivity rate by state over time
  5. Process MySejahtera related information faster (on an individual level)

I want to thank the Ministry of Health for already publishing more granular data on GitHub (https://github.com/MoH-Malaysia/covid19-public) including the number of tests and the positive rate by state (data from the August 11, 2021 is available) but more of such granular data needs to be published and used by the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Finance and other Ministries for policy guidance and for the opening up of the economy in a responsible manner.

For example, showing the reduction in the number and % of Category 3-5 Covid-19 positive patients as well as a reduction in the number of ICU cases in the Klang Valley would slowly give consumers more confidence to come out to dine-in and shop at retail outlets (subject to SOPs). 

For example, showing the number of tests done and the positive rate by state over time can be used to demonstrate that the government is doing enough testing, especially randomized testing, to identify Covid-19 positive patients in the community and to isolate and support them so that community transmission is decreased. Although the number of PCR and Antigen testing has increased substantially over the past months, it is still insufficient as the testing strategy is focused mostly on targeted areas of infection and not including randomized testing which is important to detect and slow down community transmission. (The number of tests by state should increase until the positive rate is around 5%, as recommended by the WHO).

For example, the MySejahtera app needs to be made more responsive and “smarter” to allow for the following (i) Quicker issuance of the Digital Vaccination Certificate (I still receive complaints that this has not been updated for some who have had two vaccine jabs administered) so that more people can participate in more economic activities such as dining-in and later, even to watch movies, for example (ii) Quicker registration of vaccine certification for those who have been vaccinated overseas (iii) Allowing vaccine certificates to be “transferred” to dependents so that they can also participate in economic activities as fully vaccinated adults (My mother’s vaccination certificate is in my phone because she is registered as my dependent and some places does not recognise the physical vaccination card nor a screenshot of the digital vaccination certificate). (iv) Faster processing of the status of those who have fully recovered from Covid-19 so that they can return to work / participate in economic activities.

While the features of MySejahtera have been greatly enhanced since it was first introduced last year, the response rate needs to be faster, and the APP must be seen as not ONLY a health and vaccination monitoring tool but a crucial part of the economic recovery process.

In addition to releasing and using and processing all of this data, there needs to be effective communication from the government including through the use of various spokespersons (in addition to the Minister of Health and the Minister of Finance), the effective use of Infographics which can be shared via social media and proper communication and explanation of SOPs which has been severely lacking for the past 1 ½ years.

I trust that the newly appointed Health Minister, Khairy Jamaluddin, can continue the good work which he did as MOSTI Minister and work together with his colleagues in the new cabinet to lead the charge in the recovery of our healthcare system and of our economy.

Five areas where more granular data and faster data processing can lead to better policy guidance and faster economic recovery




More granular data / faster data processing

Better policy guidance

Faster economic recovery

Vaccination rate by district over time

More efficient allocation of vaccines WITHIN a state (beyond focusing only on vaccine allocation between states)

Targeted programs in districts with low registration and vaccination rates in states like Sabah and Kelantan

Increase public confidence in districts with higher vaccination rates

Allow for more opening up of economic activities in districts with higher vaccination rates (even within Phase 1 state, for example)

Active category 1-5 Covid-19 cases by state over time

To plan for the opening up of various sectors of the economy and to keep these sectors open even if the number of cases remain relatively high (one or two thousand, let’s say, in the Klang Valley)

To showcase the effectiveness of vaccines in reducing the number of Cat 3-5 cases over time especially in the Klang Valley where the number of absolute cases is still high.

To encourage more people to get vaccinated (especially the vaccine hesitant)

ICU and deaths by state over time

To allow MOH to better plan for and allocate resources by state and also by district for some of the larger states.

 

To build public confidence that even if the # of cases increase in states with high vaccination rates e.g. Sarawak, the number of deaths among the vaccinated is much reduced. Hence, economic activity can continue subject to SOPs.

Testing and positive rate by state over time

To adjust the number of tests according to the positive rate and to increase the number of randomised testing areas when the positive rate is above 5%.

To build public confidence that there is a proper system to quarantine and support those who are Covid-19 positive and that economic activity is safe to continue.

Faster processing for MySejahtera Vaccination Certificates and for the Covid-19 recovery status (for individuals)

To have up to date information on the vaccination rate in the country e.g. processing the vaccination status of those who have been vaccinated overseas.

To allow those who have been fully vaccinated and / or who have fully recovered from Covid-19 to resume work and participate in economic activities e.g. dining in.

 

Must be supplemented with (1) better public explanation of the granular data (2) effective infographics which can easily be shared and (3) clear SOPs for businesses to follow

Ong Kian Ming is a Member of Parliament for Bangi and Assistant Political Education Director for the Democratic Action Party (DAP)