Where is the science?

·5-min read

JULY 7 — A couple days ago there was a suggestion that perhaps it is time not to test asymptomatic individuals.

It is very troubling that instead of increasing our testing, it seems we are thinking of cutting back. While Singapore is disseminating test kits and making them both accessible and affordable, our testing costs 4-5 times some people’s daily wages.

If you think about it the fastest and quickest way of lowering our case numbers is to just not test people.

No testing, no cases, no problem, right?

Hiding our infectivity rates and the actual number of infections is like hiding the dust under the carpet, and calling a room clean.

There is great pressure from the business community as well as the quarters who think that Covid-19 is “just the flu” to reopen the economy as soon as possible.

This pressure is felt by the health ministry and by certain ministers — but this is horrible, to think we must choose between lives and livelihoods.

Tourism is dead, let it die

The disastrous attempts to keep propping up the tourism industry, with tour buses, special trips to Genting Highlands, and prioritising hotel and casino workers for vaccinations has only led to more clusters.

We have to accept that tourism as it was previously done cannot be sustained in the current climate — it needs to evolve.

Hotels cannot sustain themselves on domestic numbers alone; a tragic reality that we need to accept so long as we keep failing to make indoor spaces safer.

Instead of unemployed hotel and tourism workers just standing by hoping for a past that will never return, the industry needs to think about reskilling workers and helping them find ways for their skills to transfer to other professions if needed.

Some countries have begun offering virtual tours, as the KLCC Aquaria is already doing. Sadly the revenue for such efforts will not be as much as for physical visits but times like this require more creative solutions and offerings.

A diver feeding a shark in one of Aquaria KLCC’s exhibits. — Picture courtesy of Aquaria KLCC
A diver feeding a shark in one of Aquaria KLCC’s exhibits. — Picture courtesy of Aquaria KLCC

“So what if people die, we will die if we can’t feed ourselves!” That argument is limiting and flawed; there is no such thing as an “acceptable loss of human lives” in this pandemic.

The government must and should provide aid for this ailing industry but the industry must also give up on returning to the previous status quo and start formulating new ways of sustaining itself that do not involve letting people die.

Fake news needs to be fought at all levels

I find it ridiculous that we can block M.Nasir from the radio for asking “Who is Mahathir” but we cannot seem to stop people of influence from disseminating false information.

There should be the same rules on people in power as are imposed on ordinary citizens — not a health professional? Not qualified to give health advice? Perhaps do not make public statements or give health advice.

Take for instance the ridiculous amount spent on spraying disinfectant on public areas despite there being no scientific evidence for doing so.

Our knowledge has evolved enough to learn that Covid-19 is disseminated via aerosol and not via contact on physical surfaces.

Why is there not more information being shared about that? Why are preachers and celebrities instead allowed to share folk cures or sell dodgy remedies?

It’s not even just about Covid — we see religious figures making disturbing comments about suicide and mental health that are not helpful, but harmful.

It’s not about silencing free speech but opinions that are harmful should not be given the same freedom to disseminate and must be classified as misinformation.

Stop hunting down activists

I wonder why enforcers are going after filmmakers and artists while our so-called information ministry is doing a piss-poor job at drowning out the morass of fake news.

Even now we have so much vaccine disinformation and hesitance out there to the point citizens had to save the AstraZeneca rollout by themselves.

Honestly, Malaysians on social media deserve the credit for rolling with a hashtag that made a vaccine that has had so much bad press become something to fight for.

In contrast, the ministries can’t even seem to get the message out that in this pandemic, the first vaccine available to you is the best vaccine.

Meanwhile in Australia, where AstraZeneca is manufactured, there is political squabbling and fearmongering, painting taking the jab as some terrible act of harming the populace.

Pfizer jabs are likely only making their way to that country in October but instead of making do with what they have, the anti-AstraZeneca hysteria has even reached the highest levels.

As clunky as our vaccine rollout is and as poorly managed as our Covid strategy is being shown to be, at least so far vaccine hesitancy is not a major problem — yet.

Rethink our communications

It is perhaps time that the various ministries involved come together to formulate a more unified Covid-19 and vaccination information dissemination strategy.

Right now, it’s a mess and those unqualified to speak are talking above those who actually have qualifications in public health and epidemiology.

As much good as many of the rakyat are doing in encouraging each other to vaccinate, it shouldn’t be their job and it’s time for the ministries to step up to the plate instead of arresting people for caricatures.

You don’t want to be mocked, thin-skinned politicians? Perhaps stop being such a mockery.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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