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LETTER | Focus on what matters in Covid-19 fight

LETTER | As a Malaysian living overseas, there are many things I admire about how Malaysia has tackled Covid-19.

People generally wear masks and check in on MySejahtera, and the majority want to get vaccinated.

However, there are also some policies and procedures I find strange and not very useful.

First, there is an overemphasis on cleaning surfaces. There is no doubt that Covid-19 spreads through air particles. The virus can be found on surfaces, but there is no evidence that touching a surface with Covid-19 means that you will get infected unless you lick your hands afterward.

However, our SOP emphasises sanitising surfaces. From the moment you land at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, officers wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) spray down luggage. This is unnecessary, wasteful, and unhelpful.

Because of this, many people do not seem to understand how Covid-19 spreads. Many businesses seem to think that spraying their customers with disinfectant will make sure that their premises remain Covid-19 free.

This leads people to pay less attention to things that actually matter (for example, making sure everyone is social distancing and wearing properly fitted-masks, especially indoors).

Second, there has been little to no effort to improve ventilation in closed spaces. Rather than spending hundreds of ringgit on disinfectant and PPE, the government and businesses should be looking at how to improve air circulation in the workplace, at restaurants, malls, and so on.

Doing so will not only help to reduce the chances of Covid-19 transmission, but also improve health and safety in the long term.

The public health messaging here should be very simple and clear: indoor activities are far more dangerous than outdoor ones.

When cases start to increase, the typical response is to close all public parks and ban outdoor recreation. This is not only useless in the fight against Covid-19 but harmful to our mental and physical health.

The government can restrict the number of people entering public parks, but should not close them altogether.

Third, there is an obsession with controlling borders. Malaysia has had one of the strictest border control policies in the world, prohibiting both entry of tourists and exit of Malaysians in most cases.

And yet, these policies have not prevented large outbreaks of Covid-19 within our borders. Many countries have managed to reopen borders safely by implementing stringent testing protocols.

There is no reason why Malaysians who have legitimate reasons to work, study or visit loved ones abroad should not be allowed to exit the country, especially if they are already subject to quarantine upon return.

Finally, there still seems to be some stigma against Covid-19 testing. The recent government decision to impose a ceiling price on antigen tests is a good one.

Even better would be to make these tests more freely available and accessible, especially to poor and vulnerable communities, including foreign workers.

Regular testing can help us reopen our economy safely.

We do not need to lock down the whole country every time there is an outbreak if people understand how Covid-19 spreads and if the government implements simple, clear, and effective SOP.

Because of the confusing and frequently-changing rules, many of us are tired, which in turn leads to complacency.

Let’s refocus on behaviours and policies that will actually help us learn to live with Covid-19, instead of being stuck in a never-ending cycle of movement control order variations.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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