The last line of defence against Covid-19 infection is the one you put up

ALL it took to confine me to 14 days of self-quarantine was a simple dinner with a businessman friend.

My Johor friend displayed no symptoms, and if his company had not carried out any Covid-19 screenings, he would never have realised he had been infected with the disease.

Being a health freak, he carried bottles of sanitiser with him and even wore gloves and face masks – but he still got infected.

As a responsible person, he told me I should go for a test, which I promptly did.

Testing has become easier, cheaper and faster. All I had to do was go online and book an appointment with the nearest medical lab, drive over and wait for my turn and to be tested.

The results were only due the next day, but the wait was so agonising and I called a friend who had contacts in the lab to get my results.

Thank God, it came back negative, but the point is this – if we do not go for a test, we may remain unaware we have been infected and assume we are okay.

Then, we also like to presume that our friends, family members and relatives are unlikely to have the virus.

Last week, the Sarawak state government reported that a birthday party, family gatherings and sit-down meal at a café were the sources of a string of infections.

A tycoon friend in Kuala Lumpur had to be quarantined – together with his entire family – because his driver, who mingled with other drivers, had tested positive.

Before the enforcement of the movement control order, a drink at a restaurant with friends resulted in the small party testing positive – all because one person had Covid-19.

Many of my friends and colleagues from the media, regardless of the sections they work in, have had close calls with Covid-19 cases.

If you are from Selangor or Kuala Lumpur, please take the Covid-19 pandemic seriously.

Many feel that MCO 2.0 is not as stringent as the first MCO in March. The perception is that the government seems to be relaxing the rules and conditions with each passing day – even though numbers continue to hit record highs!

Malls and outlets selling non-essential goods are open, even if there are not many customers, while hair salons – which have yet to emerge as a Covid-19 source or cluster – have to be shut.

Now, pasar malam are allowed to open, which will surely see large numbers of people congregating.

The huge number of cases recorded in Selangor was because there are many factories in the state with a high volume of foreign workers, who are now required to undergo compulsory Covid-19 tests.

From sub-standard, over-congested dormitories to packed production lines, social distancing is almost impossible for these workers.

It's a massive headache for the Selangor state government and the public's frustrations have been directed at Mentri Besar Datuk Amirudin Shari.

On Saturday, he promised to step up action against errant factory owners amid a spiralling number of Covid-19 cases in the state.

Besides identifying factories said to be hotspots for the spread of the virus, his hands are actually tied as he has no power to shut them down. The badly-affected districts are Petaling, Hulu Langat and Gombak where there is a high prevalence of Covid-19 cases.

It is almost certain that the MCO will end soon, followed by a conditional MCO. After all, questions have raised whether the MCO has truly been effective.

Many Malaysians – including some political leaders – do not seem to take the standard operating procedures (SOP) seriously. Some even seem to be offended when the public is asked to play their part in fighting Covid-19. Bizarre indeed.

The Selangor MB has now said the state government will implement a programme to monitor the factories dubbed "Preventing Outbreak at Ignition Site" (POIS).

Under the programme, he reportedly said the screening would be conducted at all factories and workplace that could potentially develop a Covid-19 cluster.

"POIS will be conducted in cooperation with the Selangor Health Department, Selgate Corporation Sdn Bhd, all municipal councils and the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers.

"To prevent new Covid-19 clusters at factories and workplaces, the Selangor government will propose to the Federal Government to take stern action and shut down factories concealing positive cases among their workers or refuse to cooperate in contact tracing," he was quoted as saying.

It's a Catch-22 situation for both the Federal and state governments – especially Selangor and Johor – where the economy matters the most.

For those of us in Selangor, let's give our support to Amirudin and make it easier for him.

It is not as simple as shutting down factories and other businesses because livelihoods are at stake and billions of ringgit could be lost.

We have to live with Covid-19 until everyone in the country – which includes foreign workers – are vaccinated, which will take more than a year.

Any MCO or CMCO will need to be lifted at some point, and if we do not follow the SOP strictly or refuse to play our part, we shouldn't waste our time venting our frustrations on social media and blame everyone else but ourselves.

Many of us will be at risk unless you stay in isolation.

The person who does your cleaning, who comes to your home or office daily for a few hours, is a possible spreader. So is the maid doing the marketing for you at pasar pagi or supermarkets.

Just because you are a Puan Sri or Mak Datin does not mean you won't be infected.

Or even the general practitioner or dentist – who is not exactly a frontliner – is at great risk of exposure to Covid-19.

We have to realise that even if we test negative for the disease, the result is only valid for three days.

So, the requirements for workers at the Selayang wholesale market – a real hot spot – to show the results of the swab tests, which must be valid for two weeks – is merely window dressing. There is no way a large number of workers, local and foreign, can be tested every few days.

The nature of their work does not allow them to work from home and like many Malaysians – especially wage owners – we need to work every day to put food on the table.

Until we all receive the Covid-19 vaccine, the only practical way is to stick to the SOP. Forget about physical meetings, including social ones this coming Chinese New Year, especially if they are not essential.

It's the Year of The Ox but don't go charging everywhere and anywhere.

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SOP , MCO , Covid-19


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