KUCHING: The average number of daily COVID-19 cases in Sarawak since the beginning of April is now more than 400, almost doubled that of the average figure for the last two weeks in March of more than 230 per day.
The Sarawak State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) today reported 512 new COVID-19 cases with one death in Sarawak, increasing the total number of cases thus far to 23,432.
However, on a positive (no pun intended) note, 410 cases had recovered.
The highest number of new cases so far in the state was recorded yesterday (16 April), with 960 cases, out of which 896 cases or 93% were already quarantined, with Kuching having 370 cases, out of which 313 cases (33%) were from the Police Training Centre (PULAPOL) at Jalan Puncak Borneo alone.
Last March, a major ‘contributor’ to the big number of new cases were illegal immigrants detained at the Immigration Detention Centre in Semuja.
– Frontliners facing the brunt of COVID-19 –
The health risk faced by front-liners such as the enforcement officers of the various agencies, health personnel, teachers and journalists, to mention a few, cannot be overstated.
In a Facebook post today, Health Director-General Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said 40 healthcare workers were infected by COVID-19 after the completion of their two-dose vaccination, albeit showing less severe symptoms.
The first COVID-19 cases in Malaysia were reported on 25 January 2019 followed by a lull after travel restrictions and quarantine were initiated.
However, the number of cases swung up at the end of February 2020, partly attributed to a mass gathering during a religious event.
When the first Movement Control Order (MCO) was announced by Malaysian Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, on 16 March 2020, the number of cases throughout the country was 553, with 511 being treated and 42 fully recovered.
As of today, Malaysia recorded a total of 372,859 cases with more than 1,360 deaths. The upside is of course the more than 350,500 people that had recovered from the virus infection.
– The Peltzman Effect –
In 2020, the number of COVID cases were low but, now in 2021, the number has skyrocketed.
There is a theory or concept of behavioural adaptation in psychology that probably can explain the reason for the enormous increase in COVID infections.
The theory is called the Peltzman Effect (named after Sam Peltzman, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago School of Business).
It states that people are more likely to engage in risky behaviour when security measures have been mandated. Basically people become more careful when they sense greater risks, and less careful if they feel more protected.
From Peltzman’s first research on automobile safety, he proved that highway safety regulations did not reduce highway accidents rate because of something called risk compensation.
When safety measures are implemented, people’s perception of risk decreases, and people may feel that they can now afford to make riskier decisions.
In a nutshell, cases were low earlier because of fear. Now cases are higher because people are not so apprehensive due to the various measures being taken, like vaccinations and SOPs at work places and shops.
– It has been a year –
During the nationwide MCO in March last year, more due to the fear of the unknown, there was a complete lockdown: no movement and assembly, no overseas travel, no foreign visitors and tourists, closure of all kindergartens, public and private schools, closure of public and private institutions of higher learning, as well as closure of all government and private premises except those involved in essential services.
The media fraternity, especially the reporters on the ground, would remember sitting inside their cars, processing news to be sent via email or WhatsApp, while munching take-away food, and looking around at the empty streets, wondering when all of it would end.
The global reach of the virus made life seem almost surreal, but it was so very real indeed.
The daily doses of shenanigans by the USA president then, Donald Trump, and his fake news claims and conspiracy theories, every time we switched on to American TV channels (most of us had so much free time), made us wonder whether life is just one big global movie with all kinds of plots and sub-plots.
– Lockdown is key –
Last Wednesday (14 April), United Kingdom Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, was reported by the news portal Sky News as suggesting that the millions of jabs given over the past few months there was not key to the reduction in COVID levels.
Nearly 40 million vaccine doses have now been given across UK.
However, he warned that the reduction in coronavirus infections, hospitalisations and deaths “has not been achieved” by the rollout of COVID vaccines.
The national shutdown was an “overwhelmingly important” reason for the drop in coronavirus cases and deaths, not vaccinations, he said.
As at 15 April, UK recorded more than 4.38 million cases and more than 127,000 deaths, whereas the total number of cases worldwide was around 140 million, with more than 79.5 million recoveries and three million deaths.
“People don’t, I think, appreciate that it’s the lockdown that has been overwhelmingly important in delivering this improvement in the pandemic and in the figures that we are seeing,” Johnson was quoted as saying.
“And so, yes of course the vaccination programme has helped but the bulk of the work in reducing the disease has been done by the lockdown.”
He was stating this a day after the latest easing of lockdown restrictions, with the fear that the move would inevitably result in an uptick again in infection.
“It is very important that, if we want to get there in the way that we all want, people must continue to be cautious, exercise restraint, and just do the basic things to stop the spread of the virus,” he added.
“You know, washing your hands, giving people plenty of space, doing things in fresh out as much as you can.”
– Controlled, targeted measures for Sarawak –
Johnson’s advice is very much applicable to Sarawak as the Controlled MCO was extended from 13 until 24 April throughout the state (or region if you like).
SDMC decided that CMCO with a clear SOP and strict enforcement were more effective in reducing and curbing the spread of the pandemic.
According to the committee, CMCO is easier to manage and enforce, especially at targeted locked down areas. For example, when villages and longhouses are affected, these places will be put under lockdown immediately and given specific attention.
This measure has helped to reduce positive cases and curb infections in the affected areas without burdening the economic activities in other areas.
In Sarawak, 487 CMCO had been enforced since January 2021, and 401 had been ended. Aroung 77,303 people had been screened for COVID-19 at CMCO-enforced areas, where 4,573 people were found positive.
In his Facebook post today, Noor Hisham urged everyone to continue complying with all the precautionary public health measures.
“No one is safe until everyone is safe,” he said.
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