Better to err on the side of caution

Some are shopping in preparation of the festivities, as they look forward to celebrating Chinese New Year with friends and family. — SHAARI CHEMAT /The Star

IF the recently announced Chinese New Year standard operating procedure (SOP) by National Unity Ministry is any indication, confidence over how we live with the Covid-19 situation is growing.After a muted Chinese New Year last year, many will be looking forward to celebrating the festival with friends and families.

This year, we get to visit not just extended family but also friends across state lines, attend prayers at temples as well as receptions.

It is a far cry from last year’s celebrations, and I especially look forward to watching lion dance troupes perform again.

But before getting carried away, let’s remind ourselves that the most transmissible version of the virus yet – the Omicron variant – is currently spreading in the country.

As many have begun their travels back home this weekend, the coming weeks will be the first test of 2022 as to the lessons we have learned about Covid-19.

On Wednesday, when Malaysia recorded 4,744 cases, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin posted on social media that the Omicron wave had begun and cases were expected to increase in the coming weeks.

While serious Covid-19 cases are in decline thanks to our country’s vaccination rates and our healthcare system is equipped and ready, caution must not be less of a priority during festivals.

Even though the Omicron variant is less pathogenic among the vaccinated, there are still the Alpha, Beta and Delta variants in the community.

At the risk of sounding like a fearmonger, I am sure the last thing we want is to see our cases spiral out of control and daily lives return to being regulated to curb the virus, but the reality is that our actions have consequences down the line.

Bear in mind that there will be a surge of millions of people travelling all over the country in the coming weeks.

On the peninsula side, PLUS operations excellence head Mohd Yusof Aziz said the highway concessionaire was expecting an exodus of about six million vehicles during this Chinese New Year period.

According to Sarawak’s State Disaster Management Committee, weekly flights to Sarawak from Sabah and peninsular Malaysia have increased from 307 to 562 since the middle of the month.

To cope with all this movement, Bukit Aman Internal Security and Public Order Department director Comm Datuk Hazani Ghazali said patrols and operations would be increased to ensure the public complies with the National Recovery Plan SOPs.

It would be impossible for the authorities to patrol every street to ensure SOP is followed, which is why it is only prudent that we all do our part to minimise the risks when moving about.

Whether it is being able to travel to be with loved ones for a reunion dinner or visiting relatives and friends, this year’s festivities will be much closer to pre-pandemic times.

Let’s not forget what it was like last year.

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