Saturday, August 15

Staying alive — keeping safe or taking risks?


SINCE March 18 this year, we have been living under a time of pandemic. Today is Day 129 of disrupted lives and livelihoods, working from home and closure of schools, controlled movements and cessation of most businesses.

We in Sarawak have been luckier than most other places in Malaysia, indeed the entire world. We have been blessed with leaders who have been hardworking, professional, possess great foresight, and have been firm and efficient in their leadership and their daily actions. For that we are forever grateful and thankful to the leadership shown by the State Disaster Management Committee headed by DCM Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas as well as Local Government and Housing Minister Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian, who is himself a medical professional in his field.

In recent days the news of new infections has been grave; as at Thursday in Kuching alone, there were 48 cases in the last 14 days. There eight active clusters statewide namely: Engineering, Mambong, Medical Centre, Jupiter, Stutong Market, Jetty, Sentosa, and Melbourne PUI.

Most businesses have slowly reopened and schools have gradually been reopened, although the full reopening of schools in Kuching, Padawan, and Samarahan were postponed to Aug 3. Centres of religious worship, events and functions like weddings and birthdays, conventions and meetings, as well as retail outlets like coffeeshops, restaurants, clubs, hair salons, massage parlours and spas, sporting activities and many others too have been reopened with strict SOPs in place. To ensure compliance, one can read from the daily newspapers that the police and other enforcement personnel have reaped healthy fines from those who have not complied with these strict instructions to socially distance themselves and/or to wear face masks, self-sanitise, washing their hands and to register their names, contact details, and temperature.

It has to be said that supermarkets, grocery stores, and retail outlets have been kept open since Day 1 when the MCO had taken effect — to ensure that people would be able to buy their provisions and food.

In times like this, food delivery services like Grab, Food Panda, and many others; as well as courier services like PosLaju and others like it have reaped an upsurge in demand for their services; but customers and clients have had to deal with long delays in delivery of their ordered goods, especially those being delivered by air. Long queues can be seen at the courier company premises on a daily basis.

The federal National Security Council has announced that with effect from Aug 1, it will be mandatory for the public to wear face masks when they are in crowded places like markets or travelling on public transportation. Other SOPs like social distancing, registering of names and contacts at public and market premises will continue to be observed; the public too are advised to wash their hands regularly and to check their temperature, as well as ensure that those below 12 and above 70 do not venture outside their homes, unless for medical emergencies.

We have now reached a stage in the pandemic when the likelihood of a full-blown second wave of infection is a matter of when and not if. Once that happens, many more will lose their lives, and those who survive will continue to be affected by the aftereffects of the virus for the rest of their lives. That is now a scientific certainty and not simply guesswork.

So what must we do right now?

For those whose age group is below 12, and above 70, my simple and earnest advice is to self-isolate; stay home, stay safe, and keep yourself healthy. For school-going children, please arrange to home-study, many in the urban areas are already doing that online; my six-year-old grandson Shane has been online with his study group since the MCO began; they are so strict about it that they keep to the times and recess periods and even wear their uniforms at home! Parents have to be very disciplined themselves to ensure that this becomes the norm and keep to this daily routine.

For elders beyond 70, many are used to their daily habits of either going for breakfast outings with friends and family, or to visit each other, or to go for brisk walks, or tai-chi or other forms of exercise in the park or other venues. Such habits are hard to break and after 128 days, anyone can get an extremely bad case of cabin fever and just go out for the occasional kopi o with friends or walk in the park with spouse. My advice is please don’t! You may be taking your last walk or your final cup of coffee. The risk is too great, and at your age, you are not likely to survive at all if you do get infected!

As for the rest of the population, I see youngsters going about as if everything’s back to normal – without face masks on when they’re in a public crowded area; not practising social distancing; and even seated four or five at a normal-sized coffee shop table. Their general attitude seems to be why worry? I’m young and healthy and strong, and my body can resist any virus or bacteria. I won’t get it, even if I do I’ll recover as the statistics show a very high recovery rate of almost 87 per cent!

What they don’t know nor realise is that once you have had Covid-19 in your system, your body will never be the same again — the immediate aftereffects and the long-term effects are still unknown, and from what has been scientifically discovered during the past four months, it will create havoc within the entire body system, from your head right down to your toes, involving every organ in the human body. Do not take it lightly, even if you recover. Medical science is still in the dark about the long term effects of Covid-19. Indeed why take the risk at all? Please play it safe. If you need to go out, go to work, or go about your business, ensure that you are properly protected at all times; do what you need to quickly and then return to home base, be it an office, a home, or wherever you dwell.

If you have a family when you return to your base, ensure that you have thoroughly cleaned yourself, disposed of your face mask properly, sanitised your hands, washed your face and hands; and thrown your clothing into the washing machine. If you have brought or carried anything home, do the same with the items from outside. Do not touch or go near your spouse, children, and other family members until you have cleaned yourself. By now, this should have become a daily habit.

I fear that the present situation would not resolve itself for some time, no one is willing to make a guess nor suggest a timeline; we don’t even know for sure when a working vaccine would be available and even then how long it’d take for it to get to us and for it to work.

Till then we can only continue to pray and to keep ourselves safe; and to take as few risks as possible, to ensure that we all continue to stay alive and to stay healthy. Amen.


“You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.”

—Psalm 91