Sin Chew Daily
When the country stepped into a state of emergency on January 13, Malaysians were barred from traveling across state borders, marking the start of the nine-month isolation between states.
Throughout much of this period, the pandemic situation in the country remained uninspiring. Cumulative infections jumped from 140,000 to 2.4 million while the number of coronavirus-related deaths surged to 27,265 from 555. Even on the last Sunday before the travel ban was lifted, as many as 7,373 new confirmed cases were reported, along with 74 new fatalities.
All these numbers were still very much higher than those recorded on January 13. So, don’t ever think that we can let our guard down!
If this is the case, then why must we reopen? We do this to revive the anemic economy so that Malaysians can gradually revert to their old ways of living.
So, reopening the state borders becomes a “necessary evil”, as we cannot afford to keep locking ourselves down month after month. We need to weigh the pros and cons and trust that the vaccines are good enough to help us contain the virus.
There is no turning back for the liberalization this time. PM Ismail Sabri has said affirmatively that there will not be similar nationwide lockdowns in future, and only “enhanced controls” will be imposed at specific more serious areas whenever necessary.
The PM’s statement is not meant to evade the government’s responsibility, but to remind the public that we have to constantly take good care of ourselves in our continuous war against the stubborn virus.
It has taken the government seven long months to achieve the goal of 90% vaccination rate for the country’s adult population, and indeed the government must be commended for its marvelous and tireless effort.
Although there are hiccups every here and there these past several months, the government has really done its best and perhaps we should stop blaming the government for the occasional deficiencies but offer some kind words of encouragement and approval in its stead. We still have a long way to go to win this war, and positive energy is all we need, in addition to criticisms.
Global statistics show that high vaccination rate has effectively lowered the rate of infection and the incidence of severe cases in the event of an infection. Upon vaccination, there should be around 75% to 95% of antibody inside our body, but since it is not 100%, we still need to strictly adhere to the SOPs to fend off the virus for the protection of ourselves as well as our families and people around us.
Although we have now lifted the travel bans, health minister Khairy Jamaluddin remains cautious about the decision to allow interstate travel. He says we have to constantly ready ourselves for the worst.
Apparently there are unknown risks with interstate travel and the slightest oversight on our part will readily spark an explosive transmission of the virus.
To play safe, the government has decided to administer booster doses on senior citizens and specific vulnerable communities while urging parents to take special care of their children aged below 12 merely because these minors lack the protection from the vaccines.
Such a move is meant to prepare us for the unknowns following the liberalization of travel restrictions. We will only be able to stop the intrusion of the highly transmissible Delta variant with full preparations in place.
Now that adults have the antibody against the virus, children will become the most vulnerable group of people.
As of September 16, there were more than 400,000 youths aged below 18 infected with COVID-19, making up almost 20% of all infections.
In view of this, parents cannot afford to be negligent in protecting their unvaccinated children below 12.
In the United States, the number of new cases in the week of August 26 after schools reopened rose drastically to 204,000, or four times before reopening.
Lifting travel restrictions means people working or studying outstation can now go back to their hometowns freely to see their parents and families.
Nine long months of wait since the start of the lockdown, while we can now happily balik kampung to reunite with our families and loved ones, we must still avoid unnecessary gatherings and remain constantly cautious.
Bear in mind that while our journey home may not be that long at all, the road towards the ultimate victory against the virus is a long and winding one.