Creeping complacency could undo efforts to suppress Covid-19, medical experts warn

People spend time shopping with their families at the Genting Premium Outlet shopping mall in Genting Highlands on October 16, 2021. — Picture by Miera Zulyana
People spend time shopping with their families at the Genting Premium Outlet shopping mall in Genting Highlands on October 16, 2021. — Picture by Miera Zulyana

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KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 21 — Increasingly apparent complacency among Malaysians towards Covid-19 could expose the country to new waves of infections, doctors have warned despite the declining number of new cases reported daily.

The experts told Malay Mail the complacency was also creeping in before the country has seen the possible ramifications of reopening virtually all sectors of the economy.

Among others, they said Malaysians have become less and less concerned about bringing unvaccinated children and other vulnerable groups out unnecessarily, such as for window shopping at malls or to dine in at restaurants.

"Yes, we are seeing an increasing trend of complacency in Malaysians' Covid-19 response in not wearing masks in public places to not adhering to social distancing as well as bringing vulnerable children to shopping malls and crowded restaurants,” said Malaysian Medical Association president Dr Koh Kar Chai.

“We have just opened our state borders and are relaxing the standard operating procedures (SOPs) in order to bring in recovery phases so that our economy can recover.

"More than 90 per cent of our adult population have been vaccinated. Adolescents are being vaccinated and booster shots are being rolled out. All these will help in our recovery, but we are not out of the woods yet.”

Dr Koh reiterated the same mantra as fellow experts: Strictly observe the preventive SOPs and to avoid leisure activities for a "little while more", until it can be ascertained that Malaysia would not face with another Covid-19 wave.

Some countries have seen Covid-19 become resurgent as they rolled back restrictions.

"We cannot afford to have another wave hitting us," Dr Koh warned.

Epidemiologist Dr Nirmala Bhoo-Pathy echoed Dr Koh's concern about the creeping complacency among Malaysians.

The associate professor said it was still too soon to consider the pandemic fully over and to return to the behaviour from before its arrival in Malaysia.

Dr Nirmala explained that self-regulation was especially important in such a situation as it was not feasible to expect authorities to be omnipresent.

“People must know how to handle their freedom wisely, and manage their lives accordingly. Avoiding the 3C’s should remain a priority," she said.

The “3C’s” refer to crowded places, closed-off spaces, and close-contact settings that health authorities continue to warn against.

The Universiti Malaya (UM) associate professor with the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine pointed out that Malaysia still has a substantial proportion of the population that has yet to be fully vaccinated and who remained vulnerable.

Previously, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin also expressed worry over the growing disregard for the preventive SOPs.

He previously used his Instagram account to urge Malaysians to keep up compliance, especially with regards to wearing face masks.

"The increasing number of photos on social media of people unmasking indoors is very troubling. I know you've not seen each other for some time and you want to take a picture.

“But we are not out of the woods by even a mile. In fact, we are still neck-deep in this pandemic. Keep your mask on. Please," he wrote.

Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya joined Melaka in moving from Phase Three to Four of the National Recovery Plan (NRP) on October 18.

In making the announcement last week, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said Kelantan, Perak, Penang, Sabah and Kedah will move from Phase Two to Three on the same day as well.

Ismail announced several easing of restrictions: allowing highway rest stops to operate 24 hours a day, while e-hailing vehicles can resume carrying passengers without restrictions beginning October 16.

The quarantine period for fully vaccinated travellers from abroad has also been reduced to seven days, and 10 days for partially or non-vaccinated travellers.

As for those with close contact, fully vaccinated individuals are to be quarantined for seven days and 10 days for non-vaccinated or partially vaccinated individuals.

Previously the mandatory quarantine period was 14 days with a second test to be done on the 10th day of quarantine.

Apart from that, cyber cafes in states under Phase Three can operate at 80 per cent capacity while those under Phase Four at 100 per cent.

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