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Caring for Covid-19 front-liners

Sketch by Aliran member Wong Soak Koon

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To show indebtedness to medical frontliners, just obey the movement contol order and don’t add more stress to their already stressful situation, says Mustafa K Anuar.

The number of Malaysians infected by Covid-19 recently spiked, prompting the government to execute a movement control order to contain its vicious spread.

Given the ferocity with which the virus is infecting humans, it is conceivable that our limited medical facilities, particularly health personnel at hospitals, are nearing maximum capacity, if not already overstretched.

The long hours of treating Covid-19 patients take a heavy toll on doctors and nurses, among other caregivers. Apart from mental and physical fatigue, they also have to contend with the risk of infection.

Besides providing frontline personnel with vital protective gear, such as suits, masks and gloves, it is also crucial that the health of these medical workers is monitored, and when necessary, treatment given.

Incidentally, the first batch of medical materials donated by China has arrived. They will be sent to Sungai Buloh Hospital, replenishing essential items, particularly masks and face shields.

If the China experience is any guide, at the initial stage of the outbreak, its hospitals ran so low on medical supplies that frontline workers were asked to wear substandard masks or adult nappies to avoid them having to frequently change protective suits.

We can imagine the stress that our unsung heroes have to endure as cases pile up. Thus, any measure to alleviate this strain, such as giving them food and refreshments, by health authorities or corporations would come in handy – assuming these workers have time for a break.

And not to mention the tension of being away from their spouses and children or parents at a time when their presence is very much needed. Their sacrifices are much appreciated.

This is why we, the general public, owe it to them to help ease their professional and emotional burden by heeding the movement control order and practising social distancing.

Attending large gatherings, such as religious events, will just worsen the situation as people subject themselves to the risk of getting infected. This must stop.

The work pressure on medical personnel will be substantially reduced if and when infection figures start to dwindle.

Equally important, the federal government cannot afford to fumble with its instructions, so that, for instance, university students are not asked to leave campus for home only to be told to stay put a few hours after the announcement was made. By then, the horses had bolted.

Confusing messages should be avoided so that people are not told to go to police stations to acquire permission for interstate travel, only to find themselves caught in long queues, exposing themselves to large crowds.

Given that the Covid-19 crisis has a national dimension, it is crucial for the virus to be tackled in a concerted and systematic manner, with the involvement of all stakeholders.

To exclude, whether intentionally or otherwise, the heads of Pakatan Harapan-led states from a meeting to address this monumental challenge not only incurs the wrath of Malaysians living in these states and elsewhere, but also makes the Perikatan Nasional government appear puerile.

Worse, it may complicate and worsen matters for those handling Covid-19 cases at hospitals daily if and when there is a lack of coordination between the federal and state governments in the campaign to fight this menace.

Indeed, keeping ourselves safe through social distancing is one way of showing our indebtedness to medical frontliners.

Source: The Malaysian Insight

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