Mask up and enjoy the show

The Rainforest World Music Festival saw 140,000 viewers from 80 countries when it was streamed online last year from June 17 to 19. — Filepic

‘New normal’ should not mean disregarding pandemic precautions at public events

SARAWAK can expect an influx of visitors soon, once international events that have been put on hold are rescheduled to take place.

First up is the Spartan Race Sarawak on June 11 and 12, which returns after a two-year absence since it was first held in 2019.

The endurance event is targeting 2,500 racers, including 1,000 from outside Malaysia, and more than 1,000 have already signed up since the event’s new date was announced last month.

The following weekend, the Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) will take place at the Sarawak Cultural Village near Kuching in a hybrid format, marking a physical return since 2019 as well as a continuation of last year’s virtual event.

This will be followed by the Borneo Jazz Festival, to be also held as a hybrid event in Miri from June 24 to 26.

The popular Kuching Food Festival is slated to take place from July 29 to Aug 21 after not being held in the past two years.

The staging of these events, especially the renowned RWMF, is a sign that things are beginning to return to normal.

Now that Malaysia’s borders have reopened and Covid-19 standard operating procedure (SOP) have been relaxed, coupled with a high rate of vaccination, there is a sense of relief as people start getting used to this transition to endemic phase.

While it’s exciting to travel again with few restrictions and attend much-missed events like RWMF and Kuching Food Festival after two years, it’s still important for us to be careful and not behave as though the threat of Covid-19 no longer exists.

Despite a semblance of normality, we’re not back to where we were before the pandemic struck – hence, the many references to the “new normal”.

This is why events like RWMF and Borneo Jazz Festival are going hybrid, with a limit on the number of physical festival-goers and a virtual platform for others to watch online.

Similarly, the Kuching Food Festival will be held on a smaller scale and SOPs will be in place to ensure crowd control and safety.

It’s commendable that the organisers are doing their part to hold events safely.

Even though the government has relaxed the SOP, it’s no reason to completely disregard precautions, and the onus is on us to be responsible.

In the words of a shopper at the crowded India Street Pedestrian Mall in Kuching, it’s safer to stay masked and remain vigilant.

“Although I’m aware of the new SOP, I prefer to continue wearing a mask as the Covid-19 virus is airborne and it’s still around,” she said on the first day the relaxed SOP came into effect.

Indeed, many people seem to have no problem with keeping their masks on while outdoors too although this is no longer compulsory.

The habit of putting on a mask appears to be well ingrained after two years of the pandemic, and it makes sense to mask up in crowded places.

While we may want to see life return to the pre-pandemic normal, the reality is that it is unlikely to do so anytime soon.

Learning to live with the virus means continuing to be vigilant, to take the necessary precautions and not to put ourselves or others at unnecessary risk of exposure.

We have lived through two years of lockdowns and restrictions while the nation undertook its largest-ever vaccination exercise, to get to where we are now.

Let’s not allow these efforts to go to waste.

We should continue to take precautions so that we can return to the real normal as soon as possible.

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