No need to be afraid to live with the virus

  • By Choo Kong-bung 朱廣邦

After receiving my second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine late last year, and Malaysia allowed visitors to quarantine at home, I went back to visit my elderly mother, and it’s where I stay. I would like to share my experiences under the Malaysian policy of coexistence with COVID-19.

The current wave of SARS-CoV-2 infections in Malaysia peaked on February 25, with 30,644 confirmed cases, dropping to 6,623 by April 17. There have been 12 deaths this year, 0.18% of infections.

As of April 18, 84.6% of the population – including adolescents and children over the age of five – had received two doses of the vaccine and 48.9% had received a third dose.

During this period, everyone in Malaysia, citizens and non-citizens, all had to provide their phone number, the number of times they had been vaccinated and whether they had been infected with the virus. Children and the elderly were able to use family members’ phones.

Everyone was given an account on the MySejahtera app, developed by the Malaysian government to monitor the COVID-19 situation. People scanned a QR code when entering or leaving a public space and had their temperature taken each time they entered a store or restaurant in a mall, but this requirement has been dropped.

Although the pandemic continues, my life in Malaysia has been completely normal. The only exceptions were the requirement to wear a mask when I go out and to scan a QR code in the presence of a member of staff before entering a public establishment.

There were no plastic partitions separating seats in restaurants, I could go to the movies, attend classes and visit places of worship. For the past two months, restrictions on the number of people allowed in a place at any given time have been gradually lifted.

One day, the MySejahtera app showed up yellow, letting me know that I had recently visited an unidentified location where there was a confirmed case.

Yellow meant that the case in question was either asymptomatic or had shown only mild symptoms.

I have been allowed to continue to go to work and go about my daily activities as usual, without having to quarantine myself, although each store can make its own decision on whether people enter with a code. yellow.

The code yellow disappeared after the 10 day limit and my life returned to normal. This limit was later dropped to five days, and currently the yellow alert has been replaced with an email warning that does not show on the app.

A code red would only appear after being in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and had severe symptoms, which is less than 0.5% of confirmed cases.

A person receiving a red alert should be quarantined at home and not allowed to leave. Medical attention would be needed when mild symptoms appear and the person should move to a quarantine site.

Once I noticed that a food stand I frequented was closed for a few days. When I asked what happened, the owner of a nearby outlet replied, “Oh, they’re in quarantine.”

I had never seen a store closed for very long. The stall owner got better after a few days, tested negative for the virus and was back at work. The customers came back and everything continued as if nothing had happened.

I would sometimes hear of someone testing positive, self-quarantining, getting better in a few days, then going back to work. News reports aside, my friends and family have not told me that anyone they know has died of the disease.

Since the Malaysian government implemented a policy of coexistence with the virus several months ago, the streets are again filling with traffic and the number of intercity trains and buses is gradually returning to normal. Although some businesses closed during the height of the pandemic, those that weathered the storm have resumed business as usual.

In the past two months, there have been two state elections in Malaysia, with no sense of foreboding.

Visitors since last month have been allowed to enter the country if they received two doses of the vaccine with proof of a negative test result within two days of arrival, and another negative result upon arrival. arrival. Home quarantine is not mandatory.

Malaysia’s experience shows that there is no need to fear living with the virus, as long as basic pandemic prevention measures are followed – wearing masks, washing hands thoroughly and maintaining personal distance.

Vaccinations should continue to be given and cases should be monitored – distinguishing between those with mild and severe symptoms.

Many countries have opened their borders and relaxed their quarantine policies. Taiwan is an important member of the global democratic order, and there is no reason for it to lag behind other countries in this regard.

There should be less political spat and more respect for science and the experiences of other countries. It is possible to defeat this virus and rest once again.

Choo Kong-bung is an assistant researcher at the Department of Medical Research at Taipei Veterans General Hospital..

Translated by Paul Cooper

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