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5:25pm 13/01/2022
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CNY: SOPs or no SOPs?

Sin Chew Daily

Thanks to concerted efforts of Malaysians to fight the virus and our high vaccination rate (including the booster doses), the pandemic is sort of “momentarily” controlled, with daily new infections around two, three thousand cases and just a score of new deaths.

Because of that, our latest Global COVID-19 Index (GCI) ranking has improved to sixth, while Nikkei Asia’s COVID-19 Recovery Index puts us at 13th out of 122 countries worldwide. Still remember we were placed 115th in late August last year?

Although we have seen fewer new cases and better GCI and CRI rankings, the virus is simply too unpredictable. With Delta and Omicron variants around, all we can say is that the pandemic here is only “temporarily” under control.

Defense minister Hishammuddin Hussein has reminded Malaysians that even though the pandemic is now slowing, the government still needs to work hard to expedite the administration of booster doses while Malaysians should continue to exercise high degree of caution and constantly comply with the SOPs.

We should not overlook the minister’s advice. On Monday, the US reported 1.35 million new cases in a single day, along with 140,000 hospitalizations and a cumulative total of 62.15 million cases and a toll of over 841,000.

With the stunning transmissibility of the Omicron variant and the high mortality rate of Delta, the situation in the US will continue to deteriorate for some time. Johns Hopkins University has predicted more than 270,000 hospitalizations in two weeks’ time, and higher hospitalization rate means more severe illnesses and deaths!

Over here in Malaysia, we should take cue from the experience from across the Pacific that we must not take the virus too lightly, and a breach in our defense line means complete waste of our efforts over the past two years.

Meanwhile in Europe, about half of the continent’s population may be infected with Omicron over the next six to eight weeks, according to the WHO, with seven million new cases reported alone in the first week of the year. Omicron infections have been detected in 50 out of 53 European countries. As such, it is too early now to talk about “living with the virus” or reclassifying the pandemic as “endemic”.

Indeed, Omicron causes fewer severe diseases and deaths, but China’s Zhang Boli has said light symptoms doesn’t mean we can let our guard down because long Covid symptoms persist in 50-60% of cases outside China. So, don’t see the virus just as a common flu!

If not because health minister Khairy Jamaluddin has resolutely issued the directive to suspend pilgrimages from January 8, we won’t know how much more virus will be brought back to this country by the pilgrims. Moreover, Saudi Arabia is itself a badly hit country.

Khairy has made the best decision for the health and safety of Malaysians, and we really need this kind of responsible leaders to help us contain the virus.

Chinese New Year, the most important festive season for the Chinese people, is only three weeks away, and no one wants to see the same tight SOPs of last year to be repeated this year: no interstate travel, only family members and people living under the same roof got to enjoy their reunion dinners together…

As for this year, Hishammuddin says the SOPs are being discussed and will be released soon.

It is anticipated that family members will now get to enjoy their reunion dinner together without a limit in the number of people, while mutual visits and restaurant dining are allowed provided that SOPs are adhered to and social distancing is observed. Devotees can also visit temples during the festive season while dragon and lion dances can be performed with prior approval from the police.

In view of the still serious pandemic elsewhere in the world, follow the SOPs, and get yourself boosted and tested before traveling home for holidays this CNY.

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