The Omicron wave is upon us, and we are not sure when it will peak. The number of new daily cases on February 16, 2022 was 27,831, the highest number since the Covid-19 pandemic started in Malaysia.
Omicron has very high transmissibility compared to the Delta variant. Once it is in the community, it spreads very fast and with high caseloads, as what has been observed in the United States, United Kingdom, European Union, as well as neighbouring countries.
Some of us might panic, and question why has a movement control order not been implemented, while others might think that Omicron is a mild variant, and we should just let it subside on its own. Both views are understandable, but neither works on its own.
Omicron might be mild, but vulnerable individuals who are elderly, with comorbidities, and with low immunity may suffer from severe symptoms and might require hospitalisation, and even die.
We need to take the middle path, with both the government and public taking responsibility in overcoming the Omicron wave without having to resort to a lockdown, or disrupting the health care system with a high influx of patients.
The government should have evidence-based strategies designed with clear goals, in order to prevent Covid-related deaths and to prevent the health care system from crashing, without sacrificing attention for non-Covid patients.
In addition, keeping the economy open is crucial, as this will support the livelihoods of Malaysians, without which social unrest and mental health issues might arise.
After weathering the pandemic for more than two years, we should be aware of the various measures to prevent and control Covid-19.
The key measure is vaccination. Full vaccination (with boosters) can prevent severe symptoms, deaths, and transmission (partially). Based on data on CovidNow as of February 9, 2022, the number of Covid-related deaths were respectively at 5.8, 0.3 and 0.1 per 100,000 patients who have been unvaccinated, vaccinated with two doses, and boosted.
The small number of deaths among patients who have been boosted may be from the vulnerable groups mentioned earlier.
In addition to vaccination, other public health measures such as wearing masks, social distancing, and practising personal hygiene are the other layers of protection against infection. A mask that fits well with good filtration should be worn at public places. Avoid crowded and poorly ventilated places.
Consider the risks in dining out carefully, including whether you belong to a high-risk group, who you are dining with (are they in your immediate family bubble), and where you are dining (indoors or outdoors, and the number of people).
Testing before dining out or participating in any public events are other effective measures in preventing the spread of Covid-19. However, this would require individual commitment in doing the test and being honest with the results.
Individuals with symptoms but with negative results should isolate themselves, as the test may have been done early, or the test might not have been carried out properly.
Lastly, maintaining a healthy weight and a healthy diet, and practising physical activities and good stress management are key to having good immunity.
Those with comorbidities should keep their blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure levels within normal ranges by practising a healthy lifestyle, complying with medication, and following up with doctors.
We should not panic over the daily high number of cases during the Omicron wave. If each of us play our role, we will be able to weather this wave successfully. Stay safe and stay healthy.
Prof Dr Moy Foong Ming is from the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.