Covid-19 has presented us with a monumental challenge, taking a mental, physical and economic toll on people around the world. Globally we have surpassed 187 million cases and over four million deaths.
In Malaysia, we have reached almost 845,000 cases and over 6,200 deaths. We are now in a critical period with a consistently high number of new daily cases and a great need for continuing vaccination and vigilance among the population.
We understand that people are overwhelmed and tired — tired of not being able to sustain financial security or work, gather with friends and family, to travel, celebrate and observe special moments, or go about life as usual.
Our health care workers are exhausted from over a year and a half of emergency response, still working tirelessly to keep the rest of us healthy and safe.
We all feel fatigue, frustration and uncertainty, but we must stay strong, focused and keep working collectively to suppress transmission, save lives, and defeat Covid-19.
We have the upper hand in fighting this virus with effective tools, from physical distancing, hand hygiene, masks, good ventilation and avoiding crowds to now safe and effective vaccines – and we must use them all, as there is no other way of getting out of this pandemic but together, doing what we know works.
From day one, the World Health Organization (WHO) has advised countries to find, test, quickly isolate and care for those who are infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and trace and quarantine their contacts.
The health authorities in Malaysia have made significant efforts to follow this advice closely, in conjunction with the implementation of public health and social measures to limit the spread of the virus and incidence of severe disease and death.
In an effort to contain the outbreak, the government has introduced the Movement Control Order (MCO) as a last resort to reduce movement of the population and limit physical contact between people.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to control the virus with this kind of measure when there is still interaction in closed spaces and crowded settings such as factories, construction sites, various essential service industries and high-density living areas.
If we allow pockets of society to remain in close contact, we create space for ongoing transmission. Public health and social measures are effective, but only when they are fully implemented and adhered to.
This is extremely important to consider when Malaysia begins cautiously and gradually lifting measures so we do not backtrack on our hard-earned progress.
We acknowledge that people must continue to work and earn a living and economies must continue to recover, but we need a healthy workforce to propel that economy – we cannot compromise on health.
The virus is evolving and changing. With new variants of the virus circulating in-country and increased transmissibility, we are now seeing more and more cases in the community, which puts the most vulnerable segments of our population at risk again.
This is why it is vital to increase targeted testing, number of testing sites and contact tracing, especially in workplaces and sectors that remain active, so that we can identify where the virus is hiding and break chains of transmission.
As individuals, we can support these efforts by taking action immediately and self-isolating as soon as we experience first symptoms and notifying our friends and family who we have been in close contact with, instead of waiting until diagnosed with Covid-19.
In parallel, we must intensify immunisation efforts to prevent severe illness and protect the population from the disease. With a reduced number of severe cases in our intensive care units, we will ultimately alleviate the burden on the health care system and our health care workforce.
WHO encourages all Malaysians to take the opportunity to get the jab as soon as they can and in the meantime, they can help their loved ones to register for vaccination, based on the schedule set by the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK).
Despite the government’s best efforts to contain the spread, the number of reported cases remains high. This is an overall indication that the public health and social measures in place need to be re-evaluated and adjusted, with full participation of all levels of society – from the government to the private sector and the public.
To be truly effective, both the responses to Covid-19 and the recovery process require everyone’s consistent engagement. We have to come together, and equally as important as the policies put in place by the health authorities are our individual and community actions and behaviours.
We need unity – for those who are sick, for our health care workers and frontliners, for all of u
Dr Ying-Ru Jacqueline Lo is the WHO representative to Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam and Singapore.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.