‘Salam Malaysia’ is the way

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 09 Feb 2020

Safe gesture: (From third left) Dr Lee, Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran and other politicians from DAP and PKR showing the ‘Salam Malaysia’ greeting. — MANJIT KAUR/The Star

IPOH: Malaysians should opt for the “Salam Malaysia” greeting instead of shaking hands in view of the coronavirus outbreak, says Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye.

This would avoid the need of having to touch one another and hence, reduce the possibility of contracting the virus, he said.

“However, what’s more important is for the people to practise washing their hands properly with soap. And if they are unable to do so at all times, it is important to use hand sanitisers.

“So for the time being, I want to tell people to try not to shake hands but use the ‘Salam Malaysia’ greeting (which involves the gesture of placing a hand on the chest), ” he said.

(“Salam Malaysia” was a form of national greeting in welcoming tourists suggested by then Culture, Arts and Tourism Minister Datuk Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir back in 1999.

He said that Malaysians should adopt the right hand-over-heart gesture as a way to greet visitors.

According to him, the Japanese would greet one another by bowing while the Thais would do the wai (by placing both palms together) but Malaysia had no “standard greeting”.

He also said that “Salam Malaysia” might be more appropriate than shaking hands as some cultures considered it unsuitable for a woman to touch a man’s hand.)

Speaking to reporters yesterday during a walkabout for Thaipusam celebrations leading to the Sri Subramaniar Temple in Gunung Cheroh here, Dr Lee said since human-to-human transmission had been reported in the country, it was important for the people to cooperate and ensure good hygiene practices.

“This is not an airborne infection, so if a person with the virus does not cough or sneeze, it will not spread to others.

“But if an infected person coughs or sneezes within three feet of another person, there is the possibility of the droplets transmitting the virus.

“Also, droplets that are found on surfaces such as tables and lifts can survive for a few hours. So when a person touches the surface, then he can be infected if he uses that same hand to wipe his face, ” he added.

On Singapore recording several human-to-human transmissions, Dr Lee said they were relying on the Singapore government to control the infection cluster.

“We (Malaysian government) are hoping that the cluster can be controlled, and if Singapore is unable to do so, this will mean the risk of human-to-human transmission in Malaysia could possibly be high.

“At the ministry level, we must be ready if such a situation arises. But our hope is to be able to contain the virus from spreading, unlike what is happening in China, ” he added.

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