Thursday, June 24

Lessons learnt under Covid-19 and some commonly asked questions

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On March 18, it will be one year for Malaysians under the new normal. — Bernama file photo

FRIENDS and readers of my column would come up to me and seek my personal opinions about what’s going on and the latest news and updates pertaining to our ‘new normal’ status. I thought it’d be good to gather these questions and put them into some organised format, which I’d like to do this week. Kindly be aware that these are my own personal opinions and feelings and may not be the same as yours, but as far as possible I can assure you there is no fake news nor any unverified information.

This coming week, on March 18, we’d have been under the new normal, under various MCOs and their variants, for exactly one full year – 12 calendar months. All our lives have changed, and many of the daily routines that we have been used to can no longer be safely practised nor kept to. Indeed, we would have had to change everything that we considered to be our normal way of life since that fateful day.

For those who are still actively working and have school going children, the change starts at the break of dawn – for many months, schools were closed. Attending classes meant going online for lessons, via PCs and smartphones. Both teachers and students had to deal with a swift learning curve on how to handle such new devices and practices, and train themselves to such non face-to-face education.

For office workers, the lucky ones could either opt to WFH (work from home) or adapt to new limited hours at their physical offices; others in the essential services industries had no choice but to continue to attend to their work in person.

New words have cropped up, there are now webinars (seminars held online via Zoom or another form of video conferencing). Zoom has infiltrated all our lives as meetings after meetings are set up all around the world. Business travel has been curtailed almost entirely and the travel industry, the hotel business, and all its peripheral businesses have suffered tremendous losses over this period. Leisure travel no longer exists in the form that we are used to; every subsidiary business associated with the tourism industry has virtually stood still with many going bust.

On Feb 26, Sarawak started the Pfizer BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine jabs. The wish of the government is to give everyone the vaccine under three phases and this will go on until the end of August.

Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian had stated, “… We want to speed up and complete all three phases of free vaccination for more than 2,019,413 Sarawakians by August 2021 rather than the national vaccination programme of February 2022.”

At the moment the only vaccine being given is the Pfizer vaccine, but Dr Sim said to ensure at least 70 per cent of Sarawakians are vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, the government’s aim is to have access to ‘as many vaccines as possible’.

The very common question being asked of me is – which vaccine would I myself take and what is the best? I have a very simple answer to that. Whatever vaccine is being given to you is good, and has been tested and has gone through all the various stages of trials and approvals. Other than whatever statistics we have seen and read of each individual vaccine’s efficacy rate (how effective it is) and its ease of delivery (eg Pfizer requiring -70 degrees Celsius transportation and two doses 21 days apart, versus the single jabs of some of the others) all of the vaccines work.

The important thing is to get vaccinated as soon as you can, and do not miss your appointment when you are called.

Should I send my son or daughter back to school? Is it safe?

All institutions of education would only reopen after both the Ministry of Education and the SDMC (State Disaster Management Committee) have fully studied and reviewed the total safety and health situation in the individual town, city, state; those deemed unsafe would not be allowed to reopen until their situation changes. All schools are under very strict instructions to ensure that all SOPs are followed and that the premises and all teaching tools are properly sanitised and kept at the best possible hygienic status at all times. So yes, it is safe once it is announced that your child’s school can reopen.

Can I carry on with my normal daily routine, for instance, going for my exercise, walk/jog in the park, breakfast with friends, or go line-dancing in a small group of other fellow dancers?

I have a qualified reply for these questions – on walking and jogging and exercise, so long as it’s in an open space and there are not many people (I would say more than 25 in a park), but you must practise strict SOPs throughout. Breakfast with friends, again, nowadays coffee shop tables that used to sit four or five are now restricted only to two. If it’s a small group of between four and six friends, so long as you seat yourselves at different tables under the SOPs it should be fine.

Remember to only take off your facemasks when you are actually having your food or drink. Put them back immediately after you have finished. Continue your conversations with facemasks on at all times. Do not dilly dally, finish eating, and leave.

Line-dancing with friends or going on hikes and picnics? Try not to exercise or line-dance in enclosed venues, buildings without air-conditioning and with wide open windows are best; again practice social distancing and put your facemasks back on as soon as you finish. On hikes and picnics, keep your distance when walking and at rest or once you reach your destination. If there’s a need to get closer, ensure facemasks are always on. Never forget to wash your hands regularly and try to avoid too many people. How many is too many? More than four is considered too many.

Last but not least, one of the most asked questions is – is it safe to visit my grandparents/parents/children/grandchildren in their homes?

If you are self-isolating yourself and do not go out often and to many different places; and your destination relative’s also practicing the same, it is quite safe; although not encouraged. Especially if he or she is older than 65 or is known to be not in completely good health. However, if you need to as a matter of urgency or an important matter has cropped up, go directly from your home to their home, without stopping by anywhere else. Ensure you also maintain all the SOPs as advised and once upon returning home, wash your hands and so on.

An important date on the Chinese calendar is April 4, which is Qing Ming or Chinese All Souls Day, whereby the community would usually visit their ancestors’ graves to clean up, worship, and make offerings. In the past, many relatives would travel long distances to get to the locations. This year, as with last year, this practice has been discouraged by SDMC and the Ministry of Health. It is hoped that all of us will abide by this decision.

The most important thing right now is to keep ourselves healthy, stay well, continue to practise the SOPs, be safe, and to ensure that all our loved ones are together with us on the same page in this pursuit and to get ourselves vaccinated when the time comes. Take care and God Bless.

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