Retail manager Mohd Faizal Farouk, 35, is alarmed at the rising number of Covid-19 cases and feels that MCO 3.0 is inevitable. But, he admitted that he feels stressed and depressed when he thinks about another MCO.
“It’s been so long and we can’t see the end of the pandemic in sight. Even though the cases dropped substantially after the first MCO, the effect isn’t lasting, ” he said.
MCO 3.0 has recently been implemented in six districts of Selangor from May 6 to 17, and in Kuala Lumpur from May 7 to 20, after more than a year since the Covid-19 pandemic first hit Malaysian shores and its first movement control order in March last year.
According to Dr Nur Afiqah Mohd Salleh from the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine at University of Malaya’s Faculty of Medicine, it’s not uncommon for Malaysians to feel like Mohd Faizal. She described it as pandemic fatigue which she said it's not unusual as it has been more than a year since the pandemic started.
“It’s a sign of pandemic fatigue when Malaysians lose sight of the end goal where they become less adherent to SOPs, especially in maintaining physical distancing, While most people still wear masks, many struggle with maintaining physical distancing as they go about their daily routine, ” said Dr Nur Afiqah who is with Universiti Malaya's Department of Social and Preventive Medicine.
IT executive K. Subramaniam, 27, from Petaling Jaya, said he’s often had to share tables with strangers when dining out at a coffee shop or restaurant just before the latest MCO was implemented.
“It seems that people had already forgotten about the pandemic and social distancing. Even though it was more than a metre apart at a large table, it still made me uncomfortable,” he said, adding that he was also concerned because the utensils were openly displayed on the tables for “all the customers to touch” at restaurants.
Dr Nur Afiqah said that there should be appropriate channels for people to provide feedback or lodge a complaint when they check in through the MySejahtera app if a venue is violating SOPs, such as overcrowding, no social distancing or unhygienic conditions.
“With vaccines now available, people seem to have to become more relaxed and less observant about social distancing. Although this demonstrates the trust that people have on vaccines, adhering to SOPs is still important, ” she emphasised.
Associate Professor Dr Nik Daliana Nik Farid, public health medicine specialist at UM's Faculty of Medicine, said it is too soon to relax on SOPs.
“Even though the vaccine will protect most people from getting infected with Covid-19, a small proportion of fully vaccinated people will still contract it even after receiving all the required vaccine doses, said Dr Nik Daliana.
“Also, people who receive the vaccine will not have significant levels of protection for the first 14 days. Immunity will come only about two weeks after vaccination of a single dose vaccine. For a two-dose vaccine, people require both doses to achieve the highest level of immunity possible, ” she explained.
“The degree to which the vaccine protects us from being infected and passing the virus on to others, is also still uncertain. So to keep others safe, we must continue to maintain the SOPs of social distancing, masking, and avoiding crowds and enclosed indoor spaces, ” she said.
She emphasised that the public needs to be reminded that high-risk environments such as crowded indoor places with poor ventilation such as air-conditioned restaurants and close-contact settings such as meetings still pose a danger to infection and must be avoided at all costs – even if they've been vaccinated.
Dr Nik Daliana said that authority figures need to lead by example.
“Parents, local leaders and socially influential individuals must show excellent examples by observing the SOPs. Celebrities and prominent figures in society can use social media to influence their followers and encourage them to follow the SOPs to help curb the virus, ” she advised.
The increasing number of Covid-19 cases may make people feel so overwhelmed and helpless that they start to feel numb towards the risks of the pandemic, cautioned Dr Nik Daliana.
“This can be a response to the stress of the pandemic or depression from it. It can prevent people from functioning as healthy and happy human beings. So, it's advisable to regularly self-assess one’s mental health during the pandemic, either through mental health applications or seeking help and discussing with healthcare professionals, ” she said.