Time For Social Distancing Educators — Dr John Teo

We had used the hammer, ie the lockdown, and now is the time to offer the soft approach so that it’s sustainable.

On all accounts, Malaysia had done well in our fight against the Covid pandemic. Industries are now starting to open with SOPs (standard operating procedures) released by the authorities.

Slowly but surely, restaurants, shops, firms, offices and others are springing back to life.

It’s now a common sight to see long lines of people outside banks, supermarkets and other popular places.

Infrared thermometers are used everywhere with pen and paper to record customers’ details for contact tracing if needed. Some businesses have QR code scanning to promote contactless recordings, which is most admirable.

In theory, every business should follow the SOPs for their industries and we can promote safe public interactions at the same time allowing us to lead a resemblance of ” normal” life.

It’s clear that these changes is going to be permanent or at least semi-permanent and we should institute these changes in all sectors maximally as soon as possible.

However, how successful we are depends critically on how well we implement these much needed changes.

Earlier reports indicate that implementations are far from satisfactory in many premises.

Following are examples of how poor implementation can defeat the purpose of our objectives in the fight against the Covid pandemic.

A) There are, of course, many reports of temperatures recorded as low as 29 or 30 degrees C, which is not compatible with normal human living!

On the flip side, we get premises that measure temperatures of thousands of people and no one has fever above 37.4 degrees C, which is highly suspicious.

One can then suspect perhaps the thermometer is malfunctioning , not validated OR even improperly taken.

There were also reports of people using the thermometers like a “toy gun” whereby they aim at the head but didn’t bother to even steady the device or press the button!

B) There were also premises whereby the thermometers, pen and paper are all left in front for customers to do it on a “self-service mode”, similar to getting your own plates and utensils.

That is hardly compatible with keeping Covid infection at bay with every one touching the pen and thermometer repeatedly without sanitising after each use.

C) Frequently premises allow only a certain number of people inside to maintain social distancing requirements BUT on the flip side, the long lines waiting outside are sardine-packed with hardly any distance between one person to the next.

D) In certain offices, workers are sitting facing each other across a small table for long periods of times, which increase the risk of cross-infection if any one of them are infected.

E) Many offices are air-conditioned and confined close environments promotes the risk of infection transmission. Changes to increase ventilation and sanitation will help in decreasing infection risks.

F) Lift or door bell buttons that need everyone to touch each time increases the risks of infection transmission. Alternative methods to activate them can be instituted such as making available the availability of disposable toothpicks, foot handles etc.

How successful the implementation of these safe practices and its challenges are greatly dependent on understanding of what’s needed, it’s objectives, and and the different situational realities.

We had used the hammer, ie the lockdown, and now is the time to offer the soft approach so that it’s sustainable.

We now urgently need to train as many social distancing educators as possible and going to the ground nationwide.

They can be employed by the government, an important way of tackling unemployment from the devastating effects of the lockdown. Alternatively, they can also be volunteers, but critically advising, nudging, appealing and helping everyone to go about their daily lives safely.

It will also ensure as best as we can that all business premises and other places of public interactions are as safe as possible.

The gain we made from the lockdown must never be lost to poor implementation of these critical measures.

Understanding and education of the greater objectives in the fight against the Covid pandemic by all is key for compliance to safe functioning of our economy.

The law and punitive measures are not always the answer to a complex implementation influenced by myriads of human factors.

Dr John Teo is from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

  • This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.

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