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Connexion: Neglected Tools in the COVID-19 Battle

Did China do everything right? No. China Global Television Network anchor Zou Yue, whose hometown is Wuhan, said frankly that China did not have enough testing kits in January and was unable to do 100 percent contact tracing. So it had to take the extreme measure of imposing a complete lockdown on Wuhan city.

“There’s a lot that needs to be revised, refined, and reformed,” said Zou Yue in setting the pace for introspective review of COVID-19 operations. Every nation should conduct a review. Did we do everything right? Of course not. Some things could have been done better.

Malaysia imposed a movement control order (MCO) starting March 18, but at the beginning we allowed thousands to leave Klang Valley for inter-state travel, possibly bringing COVID-19 along with them. When the authorities finally clamped down tightly on movement, they arrested lone joggers as well. The MCO is meant primarily to stop people crossing state lines, visiting other towns or suburbs, leaving red zone areas, and travelling without good purpose. It is not intended to deter people from staying fit.

The most glaring omission was the failure to impose a physical distancing order (PDO) to complement the MCO. Having MCO without PDO is like playing basketball with one hand. The daily supermart scene is a demonstration of this anomaly. Once you get past the security guard reading your temperature, you join the Covid Crowd. Shoppers zigzag around each other to reach that food packet before somebody else does. Where is the physical distancing? None.

Under a PDO, however, all shoppers can only stand in line and not enter. Mart assistants wearing face shields would demonstrate how to download an app showing pictures of food items available and their prices. Key in your order and gloved order takers will find your items, handing them to the cashier. After you have paid, the cashier places your items in a sanitised bag for you to take home.

Something else was missing throughout March and April. There was no stay fit order (SFO). To win a football game, you can’t have every player doing attack. There must also be defence. In this case, physical distancing is the attack. Building immunity is the defence. To fight COVID-19 you need to strengthen your immune system through boosting your Vitamin D level.

Sunlight, the best source of Vitamin D, plays an essential role in preventing respiratory infections and boosting the immune system’s fight-back response. During the lockdown period, Australians were encouraged to go out to the park although they must keep their physical distance. But in Malaysia, lone joggers out in the sun were arrested instead. In condominiums, residents were forbidden to take lone walks in the common grounds. Sunlight’s Vitamin D is known to help control diabetes, a pre-existing condition behind many COVID-19 deaths in Malaysia.

One million urbanites live in small crammed stuffy apartments. They need outdoor calisthenics and sunshine instead of being locked up 24/7. Below is an example of how urbanites can stay physically and emotionally fit as a community:

Imagine an apartment block with 800 families. If each family exercises on alternate days only, you have 400 per day. Divide each day into 20 half-hours. By allocating 30 minutes outdoor time per family, you have 20 families per half-hour. Assuming there are two nearby playfields, each batch will comprise 10 families. Deploy soldiers to get each batch of 10 family members, all wearing face masks, to march single file to the playfield for stand-on-the-spot calisthenics conducted by a drill sergeant. After they have marched back, the next batch is called out.

In a condominium, allocate 20 minutes for each family to come down to the common grounds for exercise and sunshine. If properly rostered by the guards, you won’t have families in close contact at any time. All must wear face masks and guards should be strategically placed to ensure maximum physical distancing. During the MCO, guards have nothing much to do anyway.

One further benefit of organising a community health routine is that it greatly lowers the frequency and extent of domestic violence committed by hot-tempered men against their wives and children. Let us get better prepared for the next corona invasion.

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Joachim Ng

A veteran interfaith researcher and science enthusiast, Joachim Ng has acquired more than 45 years of research experience in studying the world's scriptures and harmonising them with latest scholarly findings in many disciplines especially science and spirituality. In the 1980s, he penned a weekly interfaith column that won him a Promotion of Unity award from the Malaysian Press Institute. In addition to five earlier books, he has delivered papers at international conferences held in New York, Los Angeles, Seoul, Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Assisi near Rome. A Master's degree holder from the University of Hull, UK, he is a former chairman of the Interfaith Spiritual Fellowship and the recipient of an Ambassador for Peace award conferred by the Universal Peace Federation.

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