PETALING JAYA: Many Malaysians are still finding it hard to break their bad habits from last year as a rising number of people has continued to flout Covid-19 preventive measures since the start of the new year.
From Jan 1 to Jan 18, a total of 8,765 people were arrested for failing to abide by the standard operating procedure.
Those not wearing face masks topped the list, with 2,422 offenders or 27% out of the total.
This represented a 78% increase when compared to the corresponding period (Dec 1 till 18) last month, with 1,362 violations.
Out of the 8,765 people arrested so far this month, 20% of them were remanded and given compounds for their activities at entertainment centres, another 20% failed to prepare entry logs or record customers’ details and 19% did not abide by the physical distancing rule.
New violations after the movement control order was enforced on Jan 13 included travelling interstate or inter-district without permission (227 cases), premises operating beyond permitted hours (197) and carrying passengers exceeding the required limit (27).
Public health officials have urged the people to strictly adhere to the SOP, especially as the number of Covid-19 cases in the country is at a critical level, with a four-digit hike daily.
Malaysian Public Health Physicians’ Association Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar said it is often the simplest but most effective SOP that is violated, which is wearing face masks and physical distancing.
“This is because of people’s lax behaviour; they feel that these measures are not a big deal, ” he said, while calling for stricter enforcement and heftier fines for offenders.
Epidemiologist Datuk Dr Awang Bulgiba Awang Mahmud said wearing masks and physical distancing are the top violations as these practices were not the usual routine for the people during pre-pandemic days.
“Only people who are immuno-compromised like cancer patients and people with immune system deficiencies practise this, ” he said, adding that Malaysia’s hot weather made it uncomfortable for people to wear masks for a long period of time.
“They tend to pull it down to their chin or hang it on one ear.”
He advised the people to keep a distance of two metres, as well as to make it a habit to wash their hands and not only do it when it feels dirty.
“We often touch various surfaces and unconsciously touch our faces and masks many times throughout the day, ” he said.
Malaysian Medical Association president Professor Datuk Dr Subramaniam Muniandy said those not wearing their face masks properly, such as pulling it down to their chin, should be deemed as being without one.
“We believe there is sufficient awareness on the SOP. However, many are not taking it seriously enough.”
He said that extra effort is needed from the public to remind each other about the rules.
“Business owners should be held responsible if their staff or customers don’t observe the SOP, ” he said, adding that abiding by the rules is a way for them to show they care for the health of their employees and clients.
Dr Subramaniam urged for wider enforcement to ensure full compliance with the SOP, adding that random checks should be made at private companies and government offices.
Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has also stressed that the public need to continue wearing face masks, maintain physical distancing and good personal hygiene until the country can achieve herd immunity through vaccination.
Other countries are also facing the same challenges as they battle to contain the spread of Covid-19 in the community.
In Singapore, businesses such as restaurants face strict enforcement by the authorities as those failing to adhere to the rules will be fined or asked to be closed for a period of time.
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