Remain vigilant, Malaysians

If we become careless, there will be a new wave of the coronavirus, just like experts have predicted

pic credit: GSC Cinemas

THINGS are starting to look like the “old normal” now that almost all sectors in the country have reopened, albeit with many precautions and some apprehensions.

Yesterday, on the 22nd day of the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO), preschoolers and kindergarteners went back to their classrooms.

Besides face masks, hand sanitisers and social distancing that we have all gotten used to, there are some additional standard operating procedures (SOPs) that need to be observed.

There are no more group activities and sharing of classroom materials, which had been part and parcel of encouraging the children to socialise.

Students are not allowed to bring their favourite snacks and toys from home. In fact, they cannot even bring their schoolbags as everything now is provided by the preschools or kindergartens, which are guaranteed of regular sanitisation.

Last week, parents and even non-parents expressed both worry and joy of letting little children back into the classrooms.

While some parents would rather keep their children safe at home and continue with online learning, others were relieved that preschools have reopened, as they, too, have to go back to work with nobody to babysit their kids.

When asked if he and his peers are ready to let their children out of the house, a father of a preschooler said “Yes”.

“The teachers called us for a meeting to brief on the new SOPs. Before this, not many parents would show up at meetings with the school, but this time around, the attendance was very encouraging, as it is a matter of our children’s safety and it seemed like everyone is willing to cooperate with the new rules,” he said.

All theme parks and water parks have also been allowed to resume business, a huge relief for families, who have been itching for a getaway after three months of being cooped up at home, as well as for the domestic tourism industry which badly needs a boost to get back on its feet.

This affects some 10,000 employees at 54 theme parks in Malaysia, including water parks and indoor parks.

However, to make it more attractive for locals, theme park operators are asking for the government to reconsider the 25% tax under the Entertainments Duty Act 1953. Sunway Theme Parks ED Calvin Ho said the tax is imposed in the entrance fee, which in turn would be 25% extra on top of the ticket price, making most entrance tickets expensive.

On crowd control, Ho said it is possible as can be seen with Shanghai Disneyland Park and Siam Amazing Park that were recently reopened and have successfully operated with metre-long queues and social distancing between family grouping and other guests.

Similarly, public and private swimming pools have received the green light after a lot of pleading by professional and recreational swimmers, as well as swimming instructors. Checks yesterday saw swimmers making a splash and readily complying with the new SOPs.

Another reopening that got Malaysians excited is the cinemas. Although patrons must sit with at least one seat between them, even family members and lovebirds, and sharing of snacks is discouraged, there are many ways to celebrate this reopening of the silver screens.

Local cinemas welcomed their customers back with free screenings for only one day, offering cheap tickets for re-run movies, and to make up for the no-popcorn-sharing rule, they are offering cheap snack combos.

To further celebrate its return to business, Golden Screen Cinemas is even giving away a Samsung Galaxy S20+ to one lucky movie buff.

Postings on social media showed moviegoers adapting well to contactless transactions and “distant seating”.

The phrase “humans are creatures of habit” may not be applicable to Malaysians as it is clear that they can get used to simple changes quite quickly.

However, be wary that getting comfortable does not make us complacent, either. The pandemic is still out there and will continue to be around us indefinitely. Restrictions are being loosened because Malaysians have managed to comply with the SOPs and brought Covid-19 infections in the country under control.

If we become careless, there will be a new wave of the coronavirus, just like experts have predicted and back to the MCO we shall go. So, let us enjoy this return to freedom while maintaining vigilance.

Farezza Hanum Rashid is the assistant news editor at The Malaysian Reserve.