Let’s be sensible and safe

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The following article is submitted to the Editorial of Malaysia Gazette by reader, Hafiz Hassan.

THE logic and sensibility in allowing night markets to open again but barring families from gathering even a night for the customary reunion dinner this Chinese New Year may be questioned.

But there is a difference between pasar malam and family gathering for a reunion dinner.

Personally, I do not share the logic of allowing pasar malam when it is currently movement control order (MCO) in a state of emergency that was proclaimed to curb the spread of Covid-19, as reiterated by the prime minister.

There has just been way too much movement since MCO 2.0 and emergency proclamation.

That said, it is the small gatherings in household settings that are fueling the Covid-19 surge, here and elsewhere. Gatherings like thanksgiving dinners and reunion dinners.

Gatherings with family and friends who do not live in the same can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu.

The then director of the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had raised the alarm way back in September 2020 when reports showed that the spread of the virus in the community (community transmission) had continued at social and family gatherings where observance of social distancing and mask wearing were not followed. This was due to people assuming that family members and friends were “healthy” and not infected since they did not show any symptoms.

Highly infectious asymptomatic individuals then infected multiple people in just a single gathering.

Size doesn’t matter. Anytime people from different households get together, the risk of infection increases.

But pasar malam is outdoor. Even so, a rule on the number of people allowed to gather outdoor is as important as it is indoor.

Which is why there is the “rule of six” in England. The phrase was used by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson when he announced a ban on meetings of groups of more than six people in England, applying outdoors and indoors from Sept 14.

The announcement came about after the UK’s reproduction, or R, number escalated to between one and 1.2 for the first time since March. R is a way of rating coronavirus or any disease’s ability to spread. It’s the number of people that one infected person will pass on a virus to, on average. Coronavirus has a reproduction number of about three if no action is taken to stop it spreading.

Since the rule of six has been the law in England, even former British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was caught dining with eight other people in a dinner party that blatantly disregarded the rule.

As Christmas approached, a planned relaxation of restrictions for the festive was scrapped when the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, again, announced the changes for England at a Downing Street briefing after scientists said a new coronavirus variant was spreading more rapidly.

Now, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has maintained the advisory that the safest way to celebrate holidays is to celebrate at home with people who live in the same house. Gatherings with family and friends who do not live in the same house can increase the chances of getting or spreading the disease or the flu.

The CDC continues to recommend postponing travel and staying home, as this is the best way to protect oneself and others.

The CDC advises the people to have a virtual gathering and offers some ideas for safely connecting with friends and family:

Schedule a time to eat a meal together virtually and have people show their main dish, vegetable, or dessert.

No offence.

Neighbouring Singapore is also putting in place “safe management measures” to reduce the risk of community transmission. From 26 January 2021, there will be a cap of 8 unique visitors per household per day. Visits to family will be limited to not more than 2 households per day. Otherwise, family and friends should connect digitally.

Again, no offence. Let’s assume that we may be infectious when considering meeting others – family members or friends over the Chinese New Year, even for a day.

Let’s be sensible and safe.

— Editorial note: The views expressed are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysia Gazette.

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