We must offer our full cooperation to the government in order to bring our lives slowly back to normal.
Malaysia will transition to the coronavirus endemic phase from April 1, with antivirus restrictions drastically eased and national borders reopened, allowing fully vaccinated visitors to enter the country without quarantine.
The announcement has since drawn polarized views among Malaysians.
Reopening the borders will help expedite international businesses and investments and will significantly boost the local tourist industry, and as such the new measure is avidly welcomed by local businesses.
However, as the global pandemic remains challenging at this moment, some Malaysians remain cautious, thinking that reopening national borders at this juncture could be a rash decision.
Nonetheless, Malaysians must adopt a more open attitude and learn to live with the virus as this has become the prevailing global trend, and we should learn to adapt and progressively bring normalcy back to the world.
Some sceptics feel that the government is now switching to a very complacent position and we have to learn to take care of ourselves instead of relying on the government. They feel that the virus can mutate again anytime, adding more factors of uncertainty to the pandemic, and we may not be able to effectively contain the virus even with our relatively high vaccination rate. The latest government directive is deemed to be indirect compromise on the part of the government to unvaccinated individuals or antivaxxers.
As a matter of fact, the government has not given up or does not bother. The authorities’ pandemic management approach has shifted from direct government intervention earlier to community effort and personal responsibility in containing the virus.
In other words, it means the “transition to endemic phase” is part and parcel of the government’s exit strategy that warrants the top-down consensus and cooperation from all parties to bring life back to near normal.
Encouraging and promoting vaccination remains an important antivirus strategy of the government. Health minister Khairy Jamaluddin has said Malaysians should take their booster doses as soon as possible in a bid to protect ourselves by means of complete vaccination. This is also one of the protective measures provided by the government when our borders reopen next month.
Among the reasons for the government’s decision to ease the controls are high vaccination rate and relatively mild symptoms triggered by the Omicron variant in fully vaccinated and boosted individuals.
We can see from here that vaccination has been universally accepted as the most potent weapon against the virus, making any allegation the government gives in to antivaxxers completely unsubstantiated.
As of March 7, some 98.7% of the country’s adult population has been fully vaccinated, and 64% boosted.
However, for children aged between five and 11, only about 30% have so far been vaccinated, way behind the health ministry’s target. Additionally, there is still a substantial number of people aged above 60 and vaccinated with Sinovac have yet to receive their booster doses. These people should get boosted as soon as possible while parents must send their young children for vaccination soon to protect themselves and people around them through broader vaccine coverage.
The authorities have yet to approve any vaccine for children under five, and infection can only be prevented through relevant public health measures and SOPs. As such, parents must be extra careful when taking their very young children outside.
This also means that key to “transitioning to the endemic phase” is strong civic awareness. The government has already done its part, and will continue to ready itself in tackling any possible changes and implementing the necessary public health policies. What comes next is full cooperation on the part of all Malaysians.
We all must have higher level of civic consciousness, sense of responsibility, self-discipline and the right attitude in battling the virus.
While announcing the liberalization as we prepare to transition to the endemic phase, the government has stressed that Malaysians must continue to comply with the SOPs and guidelines, including putting on face masks in public, maintaining good ventilation for buildings and keeping a high level of personal hygiene, among others.
At the community level, we must conform to the local antivirus protocols, and at a personal level, always monitor our own health conditions and adopt the appropriate measures to protect ourselves.
This explains why we must stress that we are only “transitioning to the endemic phase” next month, not that the coronavirus is already in an endemic phase. Only WHO can define the virus as endemic, and we have no idea when this will happen.
What we can do now is for the government to do its utmost to protect the people while we offer our full cooperation in order to bring our lives slowly back to normal.