KUALA LUMPUR: When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the Malaysian shores in early 2020, people were forced, for the first time, to comply with what were perceived as almost nightmarish restrictions.

Yet, people across the nation adapted to the tough measures bravely. After grappling with Covid-19 for close to two years, Malaysians have now embraced the new normal in their life.

The 64th National Day celebration was held in Putrajaya on Aug 31 under the new normal for the second year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Sabah will host the Malaysia Day celebration on Sept 16 in full compliance with the standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Despite the spike in Covid-19 cases, a renewed sense of optimism swept the nation ahead of the Merdeka Day celebration, with people from all walks of life displaying their patriotism spirit by flying the national flag, Jalur Gemilang.

The battle against the pandemic

According to Hospital Kuala Lumpur (HKL) physician Dr Mohd Fadhli Zil Ikram Karim, the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK) gave the people reasons to be optimistic for the future.

“We are now seeing light at the end of the tunnel. The effectiveness of the vaccine disbursed through the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme is showing positive effects,“ he told Bernama.

Dr Mohd Fadhli said at the start of the pandemic, frontliners, who had to cope with the unrelenting surge in Covid-19 cases, experienced physical exhaustion as they had been working tirelessly to help stem the tide.

“We were then short of beds and staff to cope with the sudden rise in Covid-19 patients at the hospital. Furthermore, the virus was still new to us, hence we had to frequently change the procedures,“ he said.

He noted as a result of the two-dose policy under the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme, hospital admissions to the intensive care unit and fatalities have shown a declining trend.

“It is heartening for us frontliners, it’s as though we are marching towards freedom from Covid-19,“ he said.

Vaccine paves the way to Merdeka

HKL forensic pathologist Dr Ahmad Hafizam Hasmi said following the implementation of PICK, frontliners can now afford to take a breather given the dramatic drop in the number of brought-in-dead (BID) cases.

He said since the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, he and his team including volunteers, had been working daily without any rest as the remains of Covid-19 patients needed to be treated with urgency and in an orderly manner.

In fact, Dr Ahmad Hafizam said, they used to receive and keep 200 dead bodies at one time at HKL’s one-stop mortuary centre (Pusara KL).

“During that time, the remains of Covid-19 Muslim patients were managed in three stages in a day; noon, evening and night. We need the strength of two men to retrieve the bodies from the storage container and make arrangements for the burials, “ he shared.

Management of Covid-infected pregnant women

According to Dr Muhammad Firdaus Mat Noh, a doctor from the Obstetrics and Gnaecology Department of Hospital Enche’ Besar Hajjah Kalsom in Kluang, Johor, the pandemic demands that doctors have to work outside their normal speciality.

He said that they have to handle childbirths involving COVID-19 patients by using the personal protective equipment (PPE).

“We have to save two lives, the mother and the unborn child. The delivery process is done through caesarean, the best surgical procedure that we recommend to prevent the transmission of COVID-19,“ he added.

However, Dr Muhammad Firdaus said, the situation is really heartbreaking for doctors as between the mother and her unborn child, only one life could be saved.

“These are tragic situations, and it isn’t easy to watch a new-born child without the mother or the mother losing her baby,“ he shared.

“As we celebrate this year’s Merdeka Day, let us rally together and do our best to achieve our goals of freeing the nation from the Covid-19 pandemic, albeit the challenges,“ he said.

Comforting Covid-19 patients

Meanwhile, ambulance driver from Klinik Kesihatan Kuala Lumpur Mizan Ahmad Fadzil said he would usually try to reduce the anxiety and fear of Covid-19 patients, especially children, in their hour of need.

To comfort young Covid-19 patients, he would cheer them up by masking up as superhero ‘Iron Man’. “Covid-19 patients experience considerable levels of fear and anxiety as they are wheeled into the ambulance. I thought of wearing the superhero’s mask to comfort young patients to motivate them to recover from the infection.

“In fact, I used to get special requests from parents of Covid-19 patients who wanted ‘Iron Man’ to take them to the hospital,“ said Mizan.

Sharing further his experiences during the pandemic, Mizan, who has been involved in ferrying Covid-19 patients since the first wave, said he had initially isolated himself from his family for fear of “infecting” them with the deadly virus.

“I decided to stay away from my family during the first wave as a precaution amidst my busy schedule in ferrying Covid-19 patients to the hospital,“ said Mizan.

Reminder to the general public

Meanwhile, despite the vaccine’s efficacy,members of the public should continue to follow Covid-19 safety practices, said Dr Mohd Fadhli.

“We are on our way to achieving freedom, God willing, we will work together in steering the nation out of the Covid-19 pandemic,“ he said.

HKL sports medicine physician Dr Kamaljeet Singh said the Covid-19 pandemic brought the people together in a new way.

“What’s special about Merdeka this time is that Malaysians from all walks of life, regardless of race and religion, are united in the fight against the pandemic,“ he said.

Sharing his sentiments, Dr Ahmad Hafizam said, “Malaysia can only win this war against Covid-19 if we keep our focus, work together and shoulder equal responsibility.”

“We are close to achieving victory. Defeating Covid-19 demands a collective effort under one ‘Malaysian Family.’ We will triumph,“ he said.-Bernama