JULY 17 — As Malaysia transitions to the recovery phase, we can see many more sectors of the economy starting to open. More leeway is given to our citizens who are relieved to be able to enjoy the outdoors finally. Be it by spending time in shopping malls or travelling to a different state for that much needed vacation, Malaysians must continue to stay vigilant. Covid-19 is still among us and if we slip, we will collectively suffer again. It is our responsibility as a nation to maintain the low number of cases and prevent another influx of infections. In the words of Gordon B. Hinckley, every good citizen adds to the strength of the nation. Therefore, if all Malaysians follow the necessary precautions when socialising, then we will all remain victorious in the end. Firstly, why don’t we observe what have been done in other countries to flatten the curve?
Let’s start from where it all began: China. They were the first country affected by the now global pandemic. They were also the first to be able effectively curbing the spread of the virus while most countries were still struggling to manage their growing number of cases. So how was China able to flatten the curve?
Upon the massive increase in the number of cases in China, their government decided to start a lockdown which included a very strict social distancing policy as well as extensive public monitoring. Public places, schools, offices were forced to shut down, and people were instructed to carry out their work activities virtually if possible. This minimized the close contact between people which then limited the spread of Covid-19. People became more conscious of their own health. They wore masks and practiced social distancing whenever they had to step outside of their houses. A color-based health code system which abbreviated into individual QR codes were introduced by the authority and used compulsorily by the citizens to allow the monitoring of everyone’s health status.
The land of the rising sun, Japan had also done a superb job in controlling the spread while also maintaining a low death rate from Covid-19. This is even more admirable when almost one third of their population are the elderly which are a high-risk group. This feat was accomplished without needing to resort to any particularly stringent governmental measures. Instead, it may be attributed to the culture of the Japanese citizens. Bowing rather than shaking hands is their norm of greeting. Wearing masks has also been their common habit due to hay fever in spring and the winter flu season. Furthermore, the Japanese highly value personal hygiene and have always had a culture of cleanliness which plays a vital role in hindering transmission of the virus.
In contrast to many other countries where social distancing has become the new norm encouraged by their government, Japan adopted a different approach. Their policy which is designed to help minimize the spread of virus while allowing the citizens to continue their daily lives albeit with certain limits is done by encouraging them to avoid the “Three C’s”. The “Three Cs” are closed spaces, crowded spaces and close-contact settings. Credit must be given to all the citizens who have done their part by adopting and practicing the “Three C’s” every day because without their admirable cooperation, the number of cases would have just risen endlessly.
Since Malaysia initiated the Movement Control Order (MCO) on 16th March 2020, there have been several extensions and different phases to aid the continuous mitigation of the Covid-19 spread. On 10th June 2020, our country finally entered into the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) phase. During the RMCO, from 10th June until 31st August 2020, many of the previous restrictions have been relaxed. However, there are still necessary standard operating procedures and steps to be followed not just by the businesses and various sectors which are now allowed to open, but especially the citizens. On a personal level, it is emphasised how imperative it is for every citizen to do their part in stopping the spread of the virus. With all the stores reopening, it is easy for us to forget that our country is still recovering from the pandemic. We must all still be mindful when going out. While the stay at home order is relaxed, citizens should limit crowding to an enclosed area such as shopping malls. Similarly as Japan, our Ministry of Health also encourages our citizens to avoid the “Three C’s” as much as possible. If they do go out, citizens must not forget to practice tested measures of maintaining social distancing, wearing masks when venturing outside home and constantly maintaining good hand hygiene in order to continue to break the chain of Covid-19 transmission. In addition, filling in personal information or scanning QR codes are now imposed in all malls, shops, restaurants and business enterprises to facilitate contact tracing if needed. Nurseries and schools have also been re-opened with strict SOP’s to adhere to.
During this period of RMCO, the number of Covid-19 cases in our country has been maintained within a certain range, with the highest number of cases in a day being 43 and the lowest being 1. Most of the recent cases were related to non-Malaysians or those returned from abroad. There have also been no new deaths for more than 3 weeks. This shows that as of now, more than a month since the RMCO began, our citizens have been doing their best in following the SOP’s imposed. If this self-discipline can be continuously maintained by our citizens, Malaysia being declared Covid-19 free is not a pipe dream. However, for that day to arrive, there will need to be zero new Covid-19 cases for 28 consecutive days. In order for this to happen, we as citizens cannot grow lax with the recent days of single digit cases. All the measures that we have been following since MCO, from social distancing, hand hygiene and mask wearing must be continued until it is declared that we win the war against the Covid-19.
The price of this war against the Covid-19 pandemic was not light as countless lives of citizens and frontliners all over the world were lost during the past few grueling months. To honor all of those sacrifices as well as to respect the efforts that our very own government had put in, everyone as citizens need to work together by following the SOPs and guidelines set by the government. Selfishly ignoring SOPs will make the sacrifices of everyone over the past few months pointless. As responsible citizens of Malaysia, let’s all help each other in this journey of adapting to a new norm so that we can conquer the Covid-19 pandemic.
* This statement is prepared by Alia Hanimbinti Ahmad Abir, Gladys Low, Loo Kim Kee, Nabilahbt.Rahmat, Phoebe Ho, Muhammad Aby Hurrairah and Ashvini A/P Sanjeevi (Final year medical students, Group 5A, Community Posting), supervised by Dr Maslinor Ismail & Professor Dr Moy Foong Ming, Department of Social & Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya.
**This is the personal opinion of the writers and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.