The nation has let its guard down in the battle against Covid-19. With the scrapping of the physical distancing rule, any crowded place where masks are removed present an opportunity for the virus to attack you. We are cooking up a “recipe for disaster,” to use the words of Ipoh’s famous son Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye. Fourteen people died from Covid-19 on July 22, part of the increasing trend of deaths from the coronavirus.
Food haunts are now an ideal hunting ground for the virus, as most eateries are packed full at lunch and dinner. In restaurants, it is common for 12 to 14 persons to sit at round tables meant for 10. A hundred and more diners crammed in like sardines, all unmasked. Buses from Klang Valley discharge local visitors at tour site eateries in many Perak districts, with 10-a-table seating as routine practice.
Even with the mask on, there is a false sense of safety judging by the way crowds push into lifts in commercial buildings. Passenger lifts now resemble helicopters flying out of Saigon in the final days of the Vietnam War.
Places of worship operate as if they are safe havens from the virus. Packed to maximum capacity, worshippers are rooted to the same spot for an hour or more. Unless you are double-masked, there is a risk of the virus seeping in. School classrooms are back to high density. And the most popular shopping malls look as if K-Pop stars are walking around signing autographs and drawing mammoth crowds.
Cases nationwide soared to 5,685 on July 20, and this was an under-reported figure because all of us know of victims who fail to report because they find the effects to be mild and they can recover at home. On that day, Perak with 357 cases scored the 3rd highest behind Selangor and Kuala Lumpur. Among the 10 Asean countries, Malaysia held 2nd spot on July 20 behind Singapore which registered more than 10,000 cases.
A sense of normalcy has led to the lowering of vigilance and safety standards. This is dangerous, because there are many Covid-19 variants such as Omicron variants BA.2, BA.4 and BA.5. Now there is a subvariant called BA.2.75 and it is already in 15 countries. Children and the elderly are most in danger of catching the virus.
On July 16, the number of hospitalised cases stood at 1,459. Within three days it had gone up to 1,568 — an increase of 109. Thousands are rushing to get their 2nd booster or 4th jab. But some Covid-19 victims have reported getting reinfected weeks after receiving their 2nd booster. The extra jab is like a helmet that you wear to prevent head injury walking near a construction site. But you can still suffer a cut from a falling object.
Where is the safety net against Covid-19? The physical distancing rule should be quickly reinstated to safeguard public health, just as we have to dab gently on the brake to stop a bus rolling out of control down the hill.
Eateries in Perak, Selangor, and KL must be ordered to cut seating to two-thirds their full capacity. Tables for 10 must strictly seat only 6 or 7. Small tables must seat only 3. To minimise the revenue loss, eateries could introduce shift dining by limiting each shift to 45 minutes except for the last shift. The lunch shifts could be 12.00-12.45, 12.45-1.30, and 1.30pm till 3.00pm. If you like to drag a meal, book the final shift.
Every passenger lift in every building must be ordered to post a sign that restricts the number to 6 persons. Any person riding a lift without a mask on should be deemed as committing a violation with penalty of a fine.
Places of worship and school classrooms should re-introduce a maximum attendance of two-thirds the full capacity. As it is, schools already record the highest influenza transmission in the country. We need to go back to hybrid attendance in these crowded venues, with participants alternating between physical and online presence.
Finally, it appears to many that the Health Ministry seems overly focused on jabbing the public. The best permanent strategy is a 3-pronged defence: minimise opportunities for Covid to spread, fix anti-viral sanitisers to aircond blowers, and build up your natural immunity. To build up your immunity, here is a brief and easy-to-remember guide called the 3S CODE:
Stress, Sleep, Sunshine. Eliminate emotional and mental stress as they weaken your immunity. Practise anger control whenever your temper rises by imagining that you are now under a cooling waterfall. Delegate tasks to others so as to avoid overloading and stressing your mind. Sleep a good 7 hours a day, as your body needs sufficient time to refresh. Get Vitamin D from morning or evening sunshine at least 15 minutes a week.
Cleanliness. One reason for weak immunity is that Malaysia is a dirty Third World nation. Tour the districts in Perak and other states and you will find garbage strewn beside roads and many other populated spots, except the city centres which are kept spotlessly clean to impress foreign tourists.
Germs and other harmful microorganisms thrive in filth, spreading infections. If your environment is clean and neat, it makes you feel happy and happiness boosts your immune system. People are reluctant to litter a place that is clean, whereas they eagerly pile on more garbage on top of existing garbage in a dirty environment.
Oxygen: Spend a half-hour a week moving around the trees in a garden or park, as they release oxygen that cleanses your lungs. Get close to the trees and touch or hug them. During rain, stand near the drops and breathe in deeply.
Diet: Reduce white rice consumption by half as it has little nutrition and spikes up your blood sugar level. Research conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health has found that each plate of white rice eaten daily on a regular basis raises the risk of diabetes by 11% in the overall population. Regrettably, eateries serve only white rice and no brown varieties. Double up on baked potatoes as they are rich in antioxidants.
Exercise: Do 20 minutes of fast walking, slow running, climbing, swimming, sports, or gym workout daily as physical activity keeps the bodily systems functioning well. Exercise pumps up blood flow and oxygenation of tissues. It also stimulates production of endorphins in your body that trigger feelings of euphoria and relaxation. This reduces stress and boosts your immune system.
If you think that the circulating viral variants cause only mild disease, consider what the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles has lately discovered. Even for the fully vaccinated with booster shot, if you have high blood pressure or kidney disease your risk of being hospitalised is more than double upon getting infected. The take-home message is that avoiding infection is important.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Ipoh Echo