The government must constantly make up for the deficiencies which have been exposed in this crisis, in order to fully prepare ourselves for the next round of onslaught.
The health ministry has updated the SOPs for Covid-19. Among the new measures effective from July 5, passengers taking public transport will no longer be required to put on their face masks, with the exception of Covid-19 patients and their caretakers.
Additionally, the quarantine period for Covid-19 patients will also be shortened from seven to five days.
The development has followed the May 5 announcement by the WHO that Covid-19 will no longer constitute a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).
WHO classified as PHEIC, the highest alert that could be issued by the international health body, on January 30, 2020.
Lifting the PHEIC means countries around the world have made significant progress in tackling the threat from the coronavirus as well as vaccination and treatment of the illness.
However, the WHO has yet to declare an end to the global pandemic, even though fatality from the virus has dropped remarkably and its threat significantly weakened.
The same trend also prevails in this country. Health minister Zaliha Mustafa said there had been a downtrend in the number of new cases from 5,801 to 2,698 cases while the fatality rate had plunged from 17 to 11 cases. Hospital ward utilization had also dropped accordingly.
Malaysia started to relax some of the anti-virus protocols since April 1 last year. Nevertheless, the health ministry has continued to implement control and preventive measures in a bid to check the community spread of the virus.
The latest SOP relaxation is the first review since the unity government came to power.
Even though the anti-virus measures have been relaxed, the health ministry will continue to stay alert. This shows that the government is adopting a very cautious stance in this matter.
Although the pandemic is no longer at a worrisome level at this moment, coupled with the fact that the healthcare system is not overburdened now, it is absolutely essential for the health ministry to ready itself for any untoward incident, given the continued presence of new variants and sub-variant strains of SARS-CoV-2.
Even as members of the public are no longer required to put on their masks in public, and there are actually fewer people now wearing face masks, there are still many who consciously put on their masks in public.
Meanwhile, mandatory masking is still implemented at specific venues, including private venues, and this shows that many people are still conscious of the threat of the virus, which is a good thing.
High-risk groups such as senior citizens, chronic illness patients and expecting mothers are encouraged to put on their masks in crowded places with poor ventilation.
From what we have observed, there are still plenty of people who insist on cleaning and sterilizing shared utensils and tools, while more and more people have inculcated the habit of constantly washing and sanitizing their hands.
This shows that indeed many people are still aware of the importance of observing good hygiene.
It is hoped that such habits will be perpetuated for the safety of the community.
Many Malaysians have been traveling across the nation these past few days for the Haji long weekend. Naturally, with more people traveling around and gathering, infection risk will rise proportionately.
Although we have not seen an explosive surge in the number of new Covid-19 cases during the past festive seasons such as Chinese New Year, Hari Raya and even school holidays, that does not mean we can take things lightly.
Following the dissolution of the six state legislative assemblies this week, it is widely anticipated that the state elections will be held in August.
Expect an increase in people gathering during the nomination and polling days as well as throughout the campaign period, especially at ceramahs. If we don’t take the necessary precautions, a spike in new cases is likely.
It is imperative that political parties and the EC have all the necessary preventive measures in place, reminding the candidates and voters to have their masks put on, especially in enclosed spaces.
With the situation now markedly improved, relaxation of SOPs has become a natural course of action. However, be reminded that any new virus that will emerge in future is going to be very different from the coronavirus that we now know, and the disastrous pandemic over the past three years should serve as a good lesson for all of us.
Therefore, as the government is seizing the opportunity for a robust post-pandemic recovery, it must constantly make up for the deficiencies that have been exposed in this crisis, and review the earlier preventive measures, the vaccination mechanism as well as the adequacy of our existing healthcare facilities, in order to fully prepare ourselves for the next round of unknown onslaught.