NST Leader: Averting a pandemic

IN the classic 1990s gangster melodrama The Godfather Part III, a wizened Michael Corleone, frustrated at the shenanigans of his fellow dons for stonewalling his desire to step away from the mafia racket, bemoaned this timeless quip: "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!".

The capo dei capi was lamenting to his loyalists moments after evading a brazen assassination bid. We can relate to Don Corleone's frustration if we were to paraphrase his ruing with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Just when we thought we were coping well in the endemic phase, the sudden spike in cases pulls us back in to heightened alertness, following the disquieting news from our southern neighbour Singapore.

A combined proportion of Covid sub-variants KP.1 and KP.2 are now accounting for tens of thousands of fresh infections in the city-state.

The only consolation: the infected suffer only mild symptoms and despite a new wave, there had been no reports of a marked increase in Malaysia.

Still, all it needs is a single infected person returning from Singapore, and before we can say "physical distancing", it will be back to wearing face masks, implementing lockdowns, organising mass vaccinations and confronting economic ruin.

While we are being alarmists, we don't expect a pandemic rebound as dreadful as that in 2020 and 2021, though we still have to ensure utmost vigilance.

Daily life in the past two years since the last lockdown and final vaccine booster administration has been as normal as it can be.

Politics is the same boiler-plate of shifting alliances and bitter protests, and that's on a normal day.

People gallivant publicly with little care, except where to dine and shop — unmasked, of course — though in certain establishments like hospitals, employees, patients and visitors have to don face masks as a precaution.

We trust the Singapore health authorities will continue to impose a tight lid on infections, screening Singaporeans or any outgoing visitors, Malaysians especially, from traversing into Johor Baru with, heaven forbid, a new virus strain.

To be fair, Malaysia, too, has its Covid cases — an increase of 14.8 per cent to 1,230 cases just this week, but nowhere near the volumes Singapore is registering.

Since the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stopped tracking Covid-19 case counts, which last peaked in late 2022, it's harder to establish how wide the virus has spread. But, experts think that the situation in the US is no more different than the Singapore surge: some estimates say a million Americans may be freshly infected daily.

It's distressing news, but we are also mindful that Covid-19 is not the same lethal disease it once was, although a minority required hospitalisation after developing complications.

For most of us, Covid-19 has petered down to a common cold and cough that requires a strip of paracetamol, a strong cough mixture, plenty of chicken soup and bed rest. We are not even, strictly speaking, required to quarantine, though it'll be a good idea to isolate and mask oneself as extra precaution.

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