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LETTER | Restrictions on unvaccinated should be flexible, reasonable

LETTER | Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has stated that Covid-19 will remain endemic among Malaysians and it has to be regarded as an epidemic. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) also said the Covid-19 virus and its variants will be here for a long time, and that people will have to get adjusted to this disease and practice SOPs and other safety measures in addition to vaccination. 

As such the government needs to be reasonable when imposing conditions concerning the unvaccinated who account for about 10 percent of the population. Vaccination is not compulsory in the country and despite that, about 84 percent of the population as of Sept 26 Sept has received their first or second vaccines.

Some strict conditions have been imposed on the unvaccinated, which I feel are unreasonable and infringe on their right of choice. It is alright for the government to impose rules that state eateries and restaurants will bar dine-in customers if they are unvaccinated. 

Here one has a choice in that person can opt for take-aways. The rule concerning tourism or inter-state travel - that only the vaccinated will be allowed - can also be regarded as fair. 

However, strict rules should not be imposed on entry to sundry shops, shopping malls, markets, banks, houses of worship, wedding receptions, recreation parks and various essential services and places. 

The government can restrict the numbers as it did with wake services and funerals to ensure control as well as make it compulsory for the use of MySejatera for entry and exit. For example, can the parents or very close relatives of the bride and groom be excluded from the houses of worship, marriage registration centres or the wedding reception because they are not vaccinated?

The government needs to have flexible guidelines. In case of urgency or essentiality,  one should be able to get a letter online from the Health Ministry to be shown for entry into the premises.

The government is right in giving more privileges to the vaccinated so as to encourage vaccination as a means to control the pandemic but some temporary flexibility can be shown to the unvaccinated as the MCO restrictions are being loosened nationwide. 

Some are refusing vaccination for medical (case of having comorbidities) or religious reasons, some are worried about the side-effects in the long term, some waiting for the crowds to ease a little bit, and some also feel that they can ride out this pandemic by strict adherence to Covid-19 protocols or SOPs. 

The government can come with compulsory vaccination if herd immunity (80 or 90 percent of the people having been vaccinated ) is not effective or working. That the daily infectivity rates still hover around 15,000 cases, despite the high vaccination percentage, is worrying. 

Exorbitant charge in private clinics

Now the greater risk comes from the variants and both the vaxxed or otherwise are in danger if strict SOPs are not adhered to. There is now a need for booster shots for some categories of people and there is a fear that the booster shots could go on indefinitely.

Another issue I would like to highlight is the exorbitant charge for vaccination in private clinics. Recently, a friend of mine had to pay RM200 in a private clinic. This means that for both shots he will have to fork out RM400. 

It was stated earlier that private hospitals and clinics taking part in the government's vaccination programme will be doing it for free as part of their community service. One does not mind a small fee for their service but to exploit people especially when incomes are low and many workers local and foreign have been laid off is unconscionable. 

There should not be any ambiguity or uncertainty in this aspect and the government has to state firmly about the price the private practitioners can charge. 

No wonder the private practitioners were so eager to participate in the vaccination programme as they could exploit the people especially the undocumented foreign workers and refugees.

When the government wants to control the price of the Covid self-test kits, why can't it control the fee for vaccination in private clinics? Now that many vaccination centres in the PPVs, hospitals and government clinics are being phased out or are reducing the frequency of their services, many are being forced to go to private centres. 

The government needs to keep the vaccination centres in the hospitals open until such time when the need has been met. RTM can inform the public about the vaccination centres. 

Keeping the vaccination centres for the walk-in or walk-in by appointment in the hospital does not incur much costs to the government, unlike the rented PPV premises.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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