Keeping Abreast with the Covid-19 Pandemic

By Wong Chen

Of late, there is a new wave of Covid-19. This is a global phenomenon and Malaysia is not spared. This new wave is more virulent because it is driven by new and novel variants of the Covid-19 which are more infectious. Some of these variants are already on our shores since the start of the year.

As I write, a national public health catastrophe is unfolding in India. My high school friend who is in India has been sending out personal reports to my high school chat group, with heart breaking stories. We must pray for and provide whatever help we can for India. If the very populous Indian sub-continent becomes unsafe, Asia and Africa too will be affected and the rest of the world too will be at risk.

On a more positive side, there are also reports that some countries such as Israel, the US and the UK have managed to roll out their public vaccination program with good success. Some countries such as New Zealand, Singapore and Taiwan have managed to continuously control and contain the spread of the virus. In other words, it is not all doom and gloom and there are silver linings in the clouds. The key to any successful containment of the pandemic is to have both the government and the people to behave responsibly and everyone carrying out their respective civic duties.

It is against this global backdrop of good and bad news, that Malaysia’s hopes of a full recovery rests on a successful vaccination program. The vaccination program which kicked off in March, is ongoing but facing some problems. To be fair, the rollout is imperfect but overall acceptable given the limited vaccine supply circumstances. Doctors, nurses and medical staff are doing their best in these trying circumstances and have a tough target of vaccinating 70% of our population so to achieve national herd immunity.

If you have not registered yet for vaccination under the MySejahtera app, please do so immediately. We can only achieve herd immunity if 26 million people register and are then vaccinated. At the latest count, less than 40% of the targeted vaccine recipients have registered and less than 3% have been vaccinated. The government needs to dramatically step up the vaccination process in the coming weeks and months. Next week, together with a few PKR MPs, I will be meeting the minister in charge of vaccination to offer some constructive suggestions to help speed up the process.

Lastly, I would now like to offer a bit of advice on two subject matters; (a) schooling during the pandemic, and (b) how to avoid close contacts. By the way, these are the two most common questions asked by my constituents to me on the subject of Covid-19.

Last week, the minister of health published the infections data of students below 12 years old. With the said publication, the government can no longer deny that we have a growing public health problem at our schools. In Subang, many parents of school going children have contacted my office to vent their fears and frustrations. There is a lack of clear government directives on what should be done if a student of a school is found to be Covid-19 positive.

While the government tweaks the directives for schools, I would venture to give the following temporary advice to parents. In the event a student is tested positive, the school should shut down for two days to enable disinfection work to take place. If the school does not do so immediately, you can choose not to send your child to school for two days or until the school is finally disinfected.Β  If the infected student is from a particular class, all other students in the same class should stay home and be monitored by their parents for one week for any Covid-19 symptoms. If your child is not from the same class but had contact with the infected student, your child should also stay home for one week too and monitored for symptoms. As for the other students of the school, they should be allowed to continue to attend school after the school disinfection work is carried out.

I would also like to offer some basic advice on how to minimise the chances of close contact with an infected Covid-19 person. Wearing a mask, social distancing and hand sanitising are the essentials. However, the only time that people do not wear masks in public is when they meet up for food and drinks. That being the case, you should minimise such gatherings and limit it with people that you know well and fully trust. If you are in company of people unknown to you but you have to share a table, do keep a distance of at least one meter apart and do not venture to engage in unmasked conversation with the stranger longer than 15 minutes. The bottom line, the best practice is to only share food and drinks with people you know well and trust and to do so with good distance and infrequently.

Remember mask, social distance and sanitise. And please register for the vaccination, if you have yet to do so.Β  Stay home and stay safe.