THERE is a need to strike a balance between improving the economy and health safety. Very true indeed. However, in trying to do this, one needs to have effective and concise plans in place. Clearly formulated and thought-out decisions must be made and stuck to. SOP must be clearly thought through with all the potential issues considered. They must be issued out quickly as well. What we have seen though are many U-turns or flip-flops and SOP never seem ready at the point of announcement of the different forms of MCO that we have been through. One can only surmise that there is a clear breakdown in decision making.There is a school of thought that says that anything and everything can be defined as a process that can then be further broken down into sub-processes. This is known as process control and one of the most effective ways in controlling a process is to use data to make decisions – otherwise known as data-driven decision making (DDDM).DDDM is defined as using facts, metrics and other forms of data to guide strategic decisions and policy that ultimately align with fixing or improving a process. In this specific case, the process can be defined as “how to control the transmission of Covid-19”. Data would then need to be collected and analysed. Conclusions would be made based on this data.Another key factor of DDDM is the presentation and sharing of data. Make it known to the stakeholders and use the data to justify and explain why and how decisions were made. In this case, the stakeholders include the public. The public should be made aware of the justifications and related data that were used in reaching a decision and not just simply be told to do certain things. The other beauty of DDDM is that you can utilise data together with best practices or lessons learnt from others who have encountered similar problems. You then extrapolate this to localised conditions.There has been one year to collect and analyse data, but it doesn’t appear as if this data is being used effectively. Or perhaps there has been no real collection or analysis of this data. Decisions that have been made thus far seem to be random and unfocused, and perhaps even based on emotion rather than data. There does not appear to be any logic to said decisions. Even if data is being used, the public is not being made aware of how decisions have come to pass.Case in point: The recent announcement that cabinet ministers returning from overseas trips do not need to be quarantined but rather just observed for three days. The rest of the populace, however, need to be quarantined for 10 days. Where is the data to support this mind-boggling decision or even the logic of it? Citizens have restrictions from travelling interstate and within districts. Yet MPs and state reps are allowed to travel. Where is the data to substantiate and justify this?Another example would be the fact that many of the clusters seem to be coming from factories and construction sites. However, not all factories and construction sites are affected. So what is the underlying cause of certain factories and construction sites transmitting the disease while other sites do not? What is being done to prevent clusters from perpetually cropping up? In other words, where is the data? Analyse the data, get to the root of the problem and fix that process.Pasar malam is being allowed to operate, which is surely a high-risk activity. Take into account that many of these traders move between different night markets and you can hypothesise that this is just a bomb about to explode. Or perhaps the powers that be have data that show that the virus stays away from pasar malam due to all the different smells of delicious food being sold. Funny indeed, but perhaps this is not the time to jest.There have been some photos circulating on social media showing a total lack of social distancing or crowd control at some pasar malam. This again is data that show that SOP needs to be tightened and more importantly, enforced. Else, disallow pasar malam from operating as well, just like you have disallowed pubs and nightspots from operating. Again, I ask, where is the data to justify this?At the same time, many retail outlets, as I understand, are not allowed to operate unless they fall under essentials, like food supplies, electrical and household. Am I to understand that apparel like clothing and shoes are not allowed? I’m sure there is some logic to this as I wonder what people are supposed to do if their shoes suddenly fall apart or they run out of wearable clothes. I know I’m in danger of that as my shoes are not in a particularly satisfactory condition at the moment. And before you say that I can order clothes online, the last time I tried that I couldn’t fit into any of them, but I digress.Contact tracing does not seem to be working very well and neither does the reporting of cases in a timely manner with reports of backlogs causing numbers to spike. Another simple example, that has been highlighted many times, is the sharing of the actual cluster locations instead of cloaking them in some pseudonym making it all seem very cloak and dagger. Share the data so at least people can actually try and avoid these clusters, thereby reducing the risk of transmission.Data should be so easily available with all the technology that abounds. Instead, it appears that many of the SOP is based on whims and fancies rather than on science, logic and I’ll say it again – data. If data is indeed being used to make decisions, we are certainly not seeing it. For certain we are not seeing the justification or explanation for many of the decisions and SOP.Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps the powers that be are actually practising DDDM – albeit in a different form. To them, DDDM may simply mean Duduk Diam-Diam Malaysia. – February 9, 2021.*Dharm Navaratnam reads The Malaysian Insight. * This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.
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