By Mohd Noor Musa, Research Analyst, Institut Masa Depan Malaysia
The health authorities in Singapore seem to have taken a more proactive move in managing the comeback of Covid-19, the virus that killed millions of people and sent the world into lockdowns a few years ago, as compared to us.
I hate to say this but our health authorities, in particular the Health Ministry, seem to be downplaying the virus’ comeback, with unscheduled updates against our Singapore counterparts who admitted recently that they were going through another infection wave of the deadly virus.
The Health Ministry recently reported that there had been a 57.3 percent increase in Covid-19 cases. As of Dec 2, Malaysia recorded a total of 15,327 active cases, with 318 hospitalised and 15,001 cases under home quarantine.
To date, 14 deaths have been recorded in the past 14 days. Aren’t these figures “big enough” to warrant the reactivation of Covid-19 public service announcements (PSA) like what was done during the premiership of Muhyiddin Yassin?
During that time, the PSA was made a daily thing, with public reminders on the standard operating procedure (SOP) and updates on the daily cases went on for a few years until the country reached the endemicity phase.
Singapore Health Ministry stated that the estimated daily cases had risen from about 1,000 cases per day (three weeks ago) to now about 2,000 cases per day for the last two weeks, driven mostly by two variants – both of which are descendants of the XBB Omicron variant.
Together, they now accounted for over 75 percent of its daily cases. And this is the second infection wave that Singapore is going through this year.
Like the last wave which occurred from March to April, Singapore, according to its Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, had yet to impose any social restrictions in its treatment of the situation as an endemic disease, which is in line with its public health strategy, and “will live with it.”
Keep your guard up
Notwithstanding the cases we have at hand, everybody must never lower their guard. The relevant authorities should be issuing reminders at least, from time to time, so that members of the public are always kept alert of the consequences of apathy towards Covid-19.
In the coming weeks, we should expect more people to fall sick, and so, hospitalisations will go up. Waiting time will go up. And if you are a senior person or medically vulnerable due to an underlying illness, please take the necessary precautions such as wearing a face mask in crowded areas – these are among some of the reminders that should be issued via the PSA.
Why can’t we reactivate PSA instead of denying the return of Covid-19? The Health Ministry recently rebutted a voice note recording that claimed hospital beds were full and the death toll in cases of brought in dead (BID) was increasing.
For most of us, the virus feels so yesterday but we must bear in mind that it is not going anywhere. It remains a dangerous and deadly infection for the most vulnerable populations, the elderly and the immunocompromised.
There are reports that the risk of hospitalisation and severe illnesses goes up with age and individuals with chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity, heart problems, lung disease or under certain kinds of treatment such as chemotherapy.
Another thing – why can’t the updates or PSA on Covid-19 be made available by the relevant authorities on social media, electronic media or any platforms that can be accessed by all, especially the elderly who live in remote or outlying areas?
These people have limited or zero access to the internet. Safety measures should be recommended by the relevant authorities from time to time in whatever ways possible.
Even though the situation is under control and is not burdening the existing health facilities, we should fear and be ready to face another round of this deadly virus.