Some parents feel the time is not right to travel with kids

Parental guidance: Mohammad Suhaimi, (left) watching his kids pack items needed for Covid-19 precautions for possible future interstate travel.— AZMAN GHANI/The Star

PETALING JAYA: Now that the adolescents are getting their vaccine jabs, parents with children who are too young to be vaccinated against Covid-19 are taking precautions to ensure safe travel.

For them, returning to a sense of normalcy will take some time as not everyone in the family is vaccinated.

“I won’t even send my kids back to school yet. What more travelling?” said Christine Koh, a mother of three children aged 13, 11, and nine.

The 38-year-old accountant from Melaka said she still advocates for children to stay home as much as possible to keep them safe.

“Until now I still don’t dare to do physical grocery shopping or eating out.

“Unless it is for work, my family is not travelling for leisure purposes like we used to every year. It’s safer to stay at home,” she said.

After over 18 months of being cooped up indoors, Koh said her wish of bringing her children to visit the turtle sanctuary near the beach in Pengkalan Balak remained a distant dream.

For unavoidable travelling, she said she would ensure sufficient protection for her children, including “keeping them away from every single human being who is not within the family.”

Senior sales executive Jean Ng, 39, from Melaka, said her sons aged four and six have been longing to play at the beach for some time.

“But I’m concerned because of the crowd,” she said.

Purchasing executive Debbie Chu, 38, from Ampang, said she has been looking forward to visiting her mother in Melaka once interstate travel is allowed.

“I will be travelling with my daughter who is turning two soon. However, I don’t plan to go anywhere else other than seeing my mother. It’s going to be just a staycation at the hotel for my family. No shopping or holidaying around,” she said.

Legal advisor Morgan Samy, 42, concurred, saying that he was not going to risk the safety of his daughter, who is 10 years old and cannot be vaccinated yet.

“I don’t bring my girl out unnecessarily. I make sure there is a safe family bubble for her in case we need to go out,” he said.

The government had announced earlier that interstate travel will be allowed once the vaccination rate among the adult population reaches 90%, which is anticipated within days.

Universiti Malaya’s Centre of Epidemiology and Evidence-Based Practice Prof Dr Moy Foong Ming recommended that family members with young children conduct a Covid-19 self-test before gathering or travelling.

“If the family can afford it, it’s better to do a self-test.

“Although it is not a 100% approach, it is one way to rule out asymptomatic patients,” she said, adding that some nurseries have also made it compulsory to test the children weekly.

When outdoors, Dr Moy said parents should avoid bringing their young children to crowded places where keeping physical distancing is hard.

“If possible, keep the activities among own household members. If the child is old enough to wear a mask, do so,” she said.

Parents, she added, should ensure their hands are clean when feeding or caring for the children.

They should wipe the surfaces with disinfectant so that the child won’t get contaminated with the virus from the soiled surface, she said.

When it comes to indoor events and visiting relatives or friends, Dr Moy said parents should avoid passing the young child or baby to be carried by family members who are not from their own household.

“This may be difficult, but it is recommended to keep to their own family bubbles.

“Also, it’s not advisable to hug and kiss. Physical distancing should be maintained,” she said, adding that family members should also encourage and ensure the relatives and friends that they meet are vaccinated.

She noted that the impending opening up of interstate travelling will more or less cause Covid-19 cases to go up.

“If we are vaccinated and careful with the SOP, then cases won’t go up so much. We need to be careful because the pandemic is far from over,” she said.

Dr Moy said that the Covid-19 self-test kit should be made easily available and cheaper, preferably below RM10, so that people from all levels of society are able to protect themselves as the country progresses to the endemic phase.

Currently, the ceiling price for the self-test kit is RM19.90, which was lowered from the previous RM39.90.

Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr Koh Kar Chai agreed that it was going to be a dilemma for many families with unvaccinated young children when interstate travel is allowed and there is a need to travel.

“Children generally fare better if they contract the dreaded Covid-19 with many not exhibiting symptoms. They may unwittingly be a carrier of the virus. It is advisable to limit travel for the young who are as yet to be vaccinated to avoid the spread of the disease,” he said. When around adults who are fully vaccinated, he said children can take part in more activities with fewer restrictions.

Otherwise, Dr Koh said it was advisable for children to avoid close contact with unvaccinated adults or grandparents who are unwell with a medical condition.

“The adults need to adhere strictly to the SOP as young children may lack the discipline. If it is going to be a challenge to get their children to adhere to the SOP, then travelling should be avoided,” he said.

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