Are we laxing?

With new clusters emerging in Sarawak and Melaka, we are still far from winning


DEAR Malaysians, have we already won the war against Covid-19? Has the country recorded zero new cases for 28 consecutive days and declared free of the coronavirus?

It sure seems like it, looking at how most of us are becoming lax in adhering to the standard operating procedures (SOPs) to curb infection of the virus.

Remember at the beginning of the Movement Control Order (MCO), how we were scared to even step out of our homes; when a solo jog around a practically empty park brought us looks of reproach; and dining out was just a distant memory?

Almost four months later, although Malaysia has flattened the curve, the Covid-19 pandemic is still in our environment as much as it had been earlier this year.

At a table next to a poster advocating social distancing is a group of eight friends sitting closely together without even acknowledging the “X” marks, with their face masks well below their chins, laughing loudly at a good joke.

We may blame restaurant operators or their staff for not enforcing the SOPs strictly in their premises, but there have been stories on social media about patrons threatening the poor employees just for reminding them to observe social distancing.

When told that they could be ordered to close down for letting their customers ignore the SOPs, a staff at a mamak restaurant said: “Please report to the authorities if you want, because when we ask them (the customers) nicely, they would get rowdy and scold us.”

This fear was made worse after reports and videos from around the world surfaced on customers getting violent for being told to follow the new normal practices.

In France, a bus driver was beaten to death just for asking his passengers to wear face masks. Of course, some of those responsible for monitoring the SOPs at their establishments are also guilty for their complacency.

We used to see customers patiently queuing (in long lines), while a staff took their body temperatures and recorded their details, but now, the temperature scanner is just left at the entrance, as customers are expected to get the job done themselves.

At one supermarket in the Klang Valley, customers are allowed in after just a friendly nod with the staff. Even the QR codes, which enable contact tracing, are being ignored at many outlets.

Fitness buffs were quick to take their running shoes and bicycles out of storage when the government allowed jogging and a few exercising activities in open areas on May 4.

This is great not only for our physical, but also mental wellbeing, but some are not too smart about their choice of workout locations.

Observe a place like Mont Kiara, for example, where the sidewalks are always busy with people walking to work and families going out for grocery shopping.

You will surely see two or three runners zigzagging between other sidewalk users, with their sweat flying in the air and them breathing hard through their mouths, without face masks on, of course.

Regular social distancing is a meter away, but when exercising, a distance of three to five meters is recommended.

But on such crowded sidewalks, this is hardly happening. The city has many public and community parks with ample space to run around in safely, but no, they must run where there is a crowd.

It is important to note that while Covid-19 positive patients are being taken care of by our doctors and nurses, many of us walking freely could be asymptomatic carriers, and an innocent touch of a doorknob could infect hundreds of people.

The Independent recently reported that a woman in Heilongjiang, China, who had no symptoms and tested negative for the coronavirus, had infected 71 people after using the elevator in her tower block.

Researchers from the Chinese Centres for Disease Control and Prevention believed that she was an asymptomatic carrier and that her neighbour was infected by contact with surfaces in the elevator in the building where they both lived.

Their results illustrated how a single asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection could result in widespread community transmission.

Sure, Malaysia is doing an exemplary job at flattening the Covid-19 curve, so does Australia.

Having very few deaths related to Covid-19 and new case numbers that remained small, the country began to slowly lift restrictions in April, only to go back to lockdown last week.

On July 7, Melbourne recorded 191 coronavirus cases within 24 hours, which has now spread to Sydney, the most populous city in Australia.

Bloomberg attributed this second wave of outbreak in Australia to, among others, complacency.

We need to keep our heads in the game, fellow Malaysians. With new clusters emerging in Sarawak and Melaka, we are still far from winning.

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