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‘Empower people to ensure own safety’

21 Jul 2021 / 07:58 H.

PETALING JAYA: Home is still the safest place to be, but a health expert believes that a marginal relaxation of movement restrictions may help to address the rapid spread of Covid-19.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but according to Universiti Malaya Epidemiology and Public Health professor Dr Sanjay Rampal, it could also make people more compliant.

“By empowering people to ensure their own safety, they will take the necessary action to comply with standard operating procedures (SOP) by wearing masks in congested places, observing physical distancing and ensuring hand hygiene,” he told theSun.

As it is, he pointed out, the restrictions in place have proven ineffective, adding that it is equally essential that the political equation be taken out of the management of Covid-19.

“We are in a challenging situation. The country is facing multiple issues, such as unabated transmission, community exhaustion, economic loss, political instability and gamesmanship.”

He added that there should better engagement of the community and the various ministries should follow a “whole-of-society” approach when enforcing policies to address the crisis.

Sanjay said more significant investments in public health services at the district level are also essential.

“The most sustainable way to reduce transmission is improving capacity and providing more resources for case notification, contact tracing, surveillance and outbreak management.”

He commended the government for the regular updates that ensured clear and timely communication of risks.

Sanjay explained that there are two types of cases that test positive but remain asymptomatic.

“The first is the pre-symptomatic patient who eventually develops symptoms of the infection such as cough, making them more likely to spread the virus.

“Individuals in this group should self-isolate at home, conduct self-monitoring by using a pulse oximeter and seek medical care if symptoms worsen.

“The second group are those who are truly asymptomatic. The evidence on transmission by the second group is still ‘not definitive’. They may not have symptoms but it does not mean they are less likely to transmit the virus.”

Malaysian Medical Association president Datuk Dr M. Subramaniam cautioned that while people are already weary of the continuous restrictions on their movements, it is still best to tolerate them and remain at home.

He acknowledged that while the psychological, social and economic costs have been high, full compliance with the SOP is still essential.

“Hospitals across the country are overflowing with Covid-19 patients. We may not be able to cope if there is another surge in infections, considering that the number of new cases reported daily is already very high.

“As it is, field hospitals are being set up but there are not enough beds to go around.”

He said the movement control order must be taken seriously or it will take longer for the country to recover.

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