PM expected to announce reopening of certain economic sectors soon

By John Isaac

PLANS are being finalised ahead of the anticipated announcement by the Prime Minister to reopen certain sectors of the economy.

The National Security Council (NSC), chaired by Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, is expected to announce the reopening of the business sector, especially the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) soon.

The sectors involved in the first phase would probably be those with proven low or even zero infection records, said government sources. As part of the move, vaccinations in the Klang Valley are likely to be bumped up to meet the targets to enable such flexibility.

Separately, coordinating minister for the National Recovery Plan (NRP), Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, said the reopening, especially SMEs, needed to be decided based on the risk of Covid-19 infection in the respective sectors.

The Finance Minister also said it needed to be assessed based on robust science and data, adding that sector-based risk analysis alone might produce inconsistent results.

“So we have to look at all sectors, not just based on specific sectors, but in terms of the risk of Covid-19 in the respective sectors,” Bernama quoted him as saying yesterday.

The government sources cautioned that enhanced standard operating procedures would be part of the reopening.

“I won’t expect all sectors to reopen at once as the government would be cautious to ensure no negative backlash. The numbers (Covid-19 cases) are still high but it is in the right direction to allow businesses to sustain,” said the sources.

Muhyiddin on Friday chaired the second meeting of the National Recovery Council (NRC), which, among others, discussed the leeway for the business sector, especially SMEs, to reopen under stringent SOP.

Later yesterday, Tengku Zafrul said in a statement that “daily symptomatic hospital admission rate” (based on each state’s population) would be the new indicator to determine whether a state would change phases (ranging from one to four) under the NRP.

The criterion for symptomatic cases is based on daily hospital admission number of patients in Categories Three (with pneumonia), Four (needs supplementary oxygen) and Five (critical condition with multiple complications).

“The NSC and NRC meetings chaired by the Prime Minister (last week) have considered and accepted the new indicator, based on expert health advice as well as international and domestic experiences on the decline of Covid-19 transmission in tandem with adult vaccination,” he said.

“NRC decided that the new indicator will replace the existing indicator (new daily Covid-19 case numbers) when the vaccination percentage in any particular state under Phase One has hit at least 50% of the adult population.

“The evaluation for progression from one phase to another is still subject to meeting other indicators such as the availability of intensive care unit (ICU) beds and adult vaccination rate,” said Tengku Zafrul.

For example, when the Klang Valley, Johor, Negri Sembilan, Kedah and Melaka, all of which are still under Phase One, achieve at least a 50% vaccination rate, the indicator that will be used is based on new hospital admission rates.

He said these states could only move to Phase Two if they did not breach the threshold for daily hospital admissions (6.1 per 100,000 residents), while the availability of ICU beds remained “moderate”.

Moving from Phase Two to Three will mean that a state’s hospital admission rate does not exceed three per 100,000 residents, while ICU beds are even more freely available.

Meanwhile, ministry sources said that one factor when considering whether a business would be allowed to reopen was the percentage of workers who were fully vaccinated, other than the ability of the employer to create “safe bubbles” at the workplace.

The sources said the government was prepared to consider companies that had vaccinated at least 80% of their employees to reopen under Phase One of the NRP. – The Star