The COVID-19 pandemic is no longer an unknown threat to us. After experiencing it for over a year, we have come to understand the challenges and limitations that the virus brings.
However, looking at the way we are dealing with this situation, our actions do not seem to reflect the scientific discoveries and the latest knowledge that we have acquired.
For example, we are still imposing a months-long lockdown despite multiple warnings against it that have been voiced out by economists, experts and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The international scientific community has concluded that the COVID-19 is endemic, and we have to co-exist with it for a long time.
We must steer away from our current approach and start adopting policies that could prepare us to live alongside the virus. In fact, many European countries, as well as Singapore, are already exploring this possibility, and so should we.
In order to realise this, mass testing must be at the forefront. We need to quickly and regularly identify positive cases before a cluster or outbreak of cases happens.
We need to be able to segregate the “positive community” from the “negative community” without having to put the entire state in lockdown. It would be absurd to impose a lockdown in Seremban simply because there is an outbreak in Nilai.
As the vaccination efforts are picking up momentum, we have to start drawing up a plan that would allow vaccinated people to participate in the economy again. According to data from JKJAV, over 7 million people have at least received their first dose, with 3 million people already fully vaccinated as of the 11th of July.
Those who have received their vaccination could be our ally in restarting the economy as their risk classification is the lowest.
Physical offices can then be allowed to welcome back workers who are already vaccinated. Meanwhile, those who want to get vaccinated can either purchase the vaccines from a private vendor or wait for government-supplied vaccines. By making this an option, we could accelerate the vaccination process.
The physical retail economy should also be allowed to selectively operate for those who have recovered from Covid-19 and those who have been vaccinated.
For those who have not been vaccinated but tested negative, a “social bubble” shall be imposed. This means their interactions, including physical meetups, are strictly limited within that specific social bubble.
We can use proximity technology, such as Exposure Notification developed by Apple and Google, to monitor the bubble and those caught violating the rules shall be fined.
With this system, we are able to allow vaccinated people to restart the economy, identify and contain COVID positive cases without imposing a state-wide blanket lockdown, and facilitate the government to strategically allocate resources to those who are unable to enter the economy.
Which data we choose to focus on should also be changed. The number of daily positive cases at this point is no longer relevant as vaccinated people are not excluded from contracting the virus.
We should be looking at the number of daily admissions, vaccination rate per day, and death rate per day that paints a more accurate picture of our COVID-19 recovery progress.
We must find a new approach to reverse the situation that we are currently in. We must start taking a proactive approach rather than a reactive one. Our economy cannot be closed any longer. COVID-19 is not just a race against time, it is a long battle that requires an intricate multi-prong strategy.