‘We can’t halt economy forever’

Izah Azahari

There is no such thing as the best time to re-open part of the economy, as the Sultanate cannot continue living in the Recovery Phase (Fasa Pulih), said Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah during the daily press conference yesterday.

He said this in response to a question raised on public concerns that it may be too soon to re-open the economy, on 70 per cent of the population being fully vaccinated.

The minister said prior to the decision to move to the Transition Phase, the COVID-19 Steering Committee considered several factors, including the  vaccination rate.

“An increasing number of people have received the vaccine; and today, we have already breached the 70-per-cent mark. Insya Allah, by November 19, this percentage will increase further. So it will not be exactly 70 per cent, but possibly around 73 per cent or higher,” he said.

He added that if single-dosed vaccinated individuals are taken into the equation, the rate is already in the 80-per-cent range. In the next few weeks, they will be receiving their second dose, which will result in over 80 per cent of those completing their vaccine schedule.

“Currently, we are busy with the vaccination programme for adolescents. It will also increase the percentage,” the minister added.

Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah at the press conference. PHOTO: JAMES KON

Meanwhile, Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew shared that the vaccination rate among those in the high risk group, such as the elderly aged 60 and above, is at 92.7 per cent, with 99.5 per cent having received at least one does. He said, “It is an encouraging data as senior citizens have been cooperative and supportive of the national vaccination programme.”

In looking at the capacity at hospitals, the minister said there are now more beds available
However, he added, should there be an increase in cases during the Transition Phase, the government will ensure there are enough beds for those needing them.

“By analysing the data since August, we have found that 97 to 98 per cent of patients housed at the National Isolation Centre (NIC) could have been isolated at home as they did not require medical assistance,” said the minister.

He added that if there is an increase in cases, it will not overwhelm the healthcare system, using the current situation as an example where there is currently one patient in Category 4 and four in Category 5.

In terms of statistics, the minister said the majority of deaths were due to being unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, while fully-vaccinated individuals make up a small number of deaths and often due to underlying health conditions.

“These are factors that we look at and they seem to be manageable,” said the minister. “However, that does not mean that we are re-opening the economy completely.”

Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew outlined the standard operating procedures (SOPs) to follow – 50-per-cent capacity for those allowed into the premises, and a 200-individual maximum capacity, including the condition that only fully vaccinated individuals are allowed.

He added that the goal is to have people go to shopping centres and restaurants to interact with others who have also been fully vaccinated.

“We will keep an eye on data collected during the Transition Phase. Hopefully we will not see an increase in cases. But if there is an increase, the committee will think of a way to handle it,” the minister said.

The minister also expressed hopes that the public will respect the guidelines under the Transition Phase including venturing into business premises while fully-immunised, adding that based on statistics, the COVID-19 vaccine offers much-needed protection from the coronavirus.