Restrict movement for the greater good


  • Metro News
  • Monday, 23 Mar 2020

Less contact is crucial to stop the spread of Covid-19. — Filepic

I AM not a germophobe.

But knowing what is happening around the world and how virulent and fatal Covid-19 can be, I have to take preventive measures to ensure I do not become infected.

If not for myself, I owe it to my family and the people around me which include vulnerable groups like the elderly and young children.

I would like to think that others feel the same way I do, but alas, some still go about their daily routine without much concern.

On March 12, just four days before the announcement of the restricted movement order, I was caught in a socially awkward situation.

Malaysia had recorded 158 cases that day. I was assigned to a social event attended by some 30 people, seated at three tables.

All guests were required to have their body temperature checked before being allowed into the building which housed the restaurant.

Seated next to me was a Japanese man. We instinctively extended our hands for a handshake and retracted them, much like how Prince Charles pulled back his hand and greeted everyone with namaste in the video that went viral.

I did the namaste too. I put my palms together towards my chest, while my new friend bowed as per his culture and imitated my gesture. We smiled at our mutual awkwardness.

After a good dinner and wine, it was time to leave. I got up to verbally thank the host with a slight nod and apologised for not being able to shake hands.

However, another guest in front of me said “I want to squeeze you” and hugged the host, to my dismay.

It made me wonder whether I was being paranoid about the Covid-19 situation in the country.

According to CoronaTracker, at 11.30am on the same day, there were 126,064 confirmed Covid-19 cases with 4,630 deaths reported worldwide.

A total of 68,211 patients have recovered.

World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the disease a pandemic a day earlier after a sudden increase in the number of cases all over the world, affecting a large number of people.

So, even if I was paranoid, there was good reason. The “it won’t happen to me” mentality has to stop.

Psychology expert Dr Richard Osbaldiston calls it the optimism bias.

In a paper published in 2016, he explained that it was the belief that each of us was more likely to experience good outcomes and less likely to experience bad ones.

And that the key to optimism bias is that we disregard the reality of an overall situation because we think we are excluded from the potential negative effects.

Osbaldiston said warnings do not work.

Much like how people still smoke and die despite being warned of its health hazards on cigarette packs and people still get into accidents after driving intoxicated in spite of being told not to drink and drive.

That explains why many Malaysians viewed the movement control order (MCO) from March 18 to 31 as a bonus holiday and headed to their hometowns instead.

This exodus defeated the purpose of containing the virus and did the total opposite by possibly spreading it to more areas.

The restriction has already affected the economy. People are dealing with a loss of income. With the increasing number of Covid-19 positive patients, there is also fear that there will be shortage of treatment facilities in hospitals.

I believe nobody wants to be sick or infect others. Person-to-person transmission happens inadvertently.

I feel sorry for those who had to cancel or adjust their wedding plans. A lot of money and time would have been spent but it is for the greater good.

One may take precautionary measures such as using hand sanitisers, face masks and checking temperature but there is no guarantee that these will be able to contain the spread of the virus.

It is almost impossible to refrain from physical contact or practise social distancing with loved ones.

If you have no choice but to go ahead, keep the event small, short and sweet.

Celebratory dinners can take place later. If your guests are like me, they will thank you for it.

Success in containing the Covid-19 outbreak lies with us. If we fail these two weeks, the MCO may be extended and even escalated to a lockdown which we cannot afford.

The order is something new to all of us and we have to adapt. Let us work together and just stay home.

It is the least that we can do to help those who are already affected to get the best care and stop the virus from spreading further.

You will rethink your irresponsible actions if you or your loved one get infected.

These two weeks are actually about ensuring we can overcome Covid-19 and return to normal life.

So, stay at home. There is no better time to catch up on sleep, spend quality time with family, brush up on cooking skills and do spring cleaning.

It is not that difficult.

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