KUALA LUMPUR: Democratic Action Party (DAP) Member of Parliament for Kota Kinabalu Chan Foong Hin today proposed that the Perikatan Nasional federal government should abandon their current method of distinguishing between essential and non-essential sectors in deciding whether a certain economic sector is allowed to operate, and to instead go basing on risk assessment.
If the current method continues to be used, many economic sectors would end up starving to death despite posing very low risk of transmission of Covid-19.
Chan, who is also the Secretary of DAP Sabah, made the call from Kuala Lumpur today in support of the “Sabah Photographers and Makeup Artists White Flag Movement.” Chan is currently in Kuala Lumpur for a special five-day Parliamentary sitting starting next Monday and has undergone a swab test this morning at Parliament in preparation for the sitting.
“In fact, not only photographers and makeup artists have to raise white flags, but also business operators from many other industries. Another example is textile merchants. These shops that sell textile and their customers who buy textiles can always maintain social distancing and have near to no physical contact.
“However, just because they belong to the special category of ‘clothing stores’, they are not allowed to operate at all,” lamented Chan.
He gave the example of dining-in in restaurants & eateries. He compared between federal SOP issued by the National Security Council (MKN) under Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the National Recovery Plan (NRP) which expressly prohibits dine-in, and the Sabah state government press statement dated 10 July allowing dine-in during Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the NRP in Sabah.
“May I ask, after more than two weeks of “experiment” on allowing dine-in in Sabah, has there been a major rebound or increase in Covid-19 cases which can be attributable to patrons dine-in in eateries?
“Have there been any eatery clusters? The answer is no. Even the Sarawak government has also subsequently followed the decision to allow dine-in,” remarked Chan.
Chan said that the recent increase in cases of Covid-19 in Sabah is not due to the allowing of dine-in, but in actual fact, the same is due to the prison clusters in Kota Kinabalu and Tawau.
The increase in cases is more related to densely crowded and enclosed living environment.
“Clearly, the question, at the end of the day, is not which economic sectors can be shut down and which can be allowed to operate. The real matter of concern should be on managing the actual risk of Covid-19 transmission, to be able to fight the pandemic in line with the science and data,” he said.
Chan believes that there are many industries that could not open their doors and do business, not because of high risks of transmission of Covid-19, but simply because they are branded as being “none essential”.
“However, such “none essential” view in the eyes of the government, on the contrary, is “very important” in the eyes of many breadwinners. In fact, the criteria used to determine which industry is essential and which industry is not essential is absolutely arbitrary!” said Chan.
“Take photography activities as an example. With so many politicians uploading images on Facebook every day, it is obvious that there is someone behind holding and working on the camera. Now, is the risk of transmission of Covid-19 very high? Nope.
“Unfortunately, the photographer has been categorized as an unimportant economic field and is left for dead. So much of their business opportunities over the past year had to be sacrificed with their moneys in the bank accounts diminishing by the day due to overheads and commitments,” said Chan.
Previously, Chan had also raised the issue that the SOPs issued for traditional and complimentary medical (TCM) practitioners are “nonsensical” as no physical contact were allowed. The TCM industry is an important sector providing relief to the medical sector during this pandemic, but just because some government officials high up thinks that physical contact automatically amounts to high risk of transmission of Covid-19, face to face consultations and acupuncture are not allowed to be carried out during the first and second phases of the NRP.
“However, how high of a risk is it in actual fact? Can this government tell me how many TCM Covid-19 clusters were there when the TCM industry were previously allowed to carry out face to face consultations and acupuncture under previous SOPs?” questioned Chan.
Chan noted that recently there were Covid-19 clusters in a private medical clinic in Ranau and a dialysis centre at a hospital.
He then questioned that will these medical facilities be shut down just because they are of high risk? It is unreasonable, right? A reasonable way to deal with it is to allow these private medical clinic and dialysis centre continue to operate, but with a stricter and updated SOP based on the actual risk of transmitting Covid-19 faced,” said Chan.
Chan then reemphasized that the MKN and the Ministry of Health (KKM) should start using risk assessment in considering the actual risk of various economic industries vis-à-vis Covid-19, so that the economy can be restarted and the number of confirmed cases can be controlled within a confined scope.
“Otherwise, the National Recovery Plan (NRP) will only have a false name, and no real recovery performance will ever be seen!” said Chan.