Are we prepared to live with Covid-19?

These so-called bleak times are necessary to go through in order to get to a much, much better place.

– David Lynch, American filmmaker

We have been told that we have to live with Covid-19. The coronavirus will not go away and is here to stay.

For how long? Only God knows. But as we plan to go from a pandemic to an endemic (call it “making progress” if you wish), it means the disease will still be around and we have to co-exist with it.

But are we prepared to live with Covid? The answer is simple. We have no choice but to be prepared to do so.

Unfortunately, for the past several days, Sarawak has emerged with the most infections despite having the highest number of people already inoculated.

At the beginning of August, Sarawak was doing so well with very low new positive cases while the immunisation programme was in full steam.

Then, Sarawakians started talking about getting back to work and restarting their businesses. People want their jobs and lives back. Students can’t wait to return to school. For a while, there was that glimmer of hope.

I, too, was caught within the circulated positive vibes and the feeling was good. Just the thought of being able to get back to even “half normal” was pure joy. Alas, it was not to be.  

A month or so later, everything turned upside down for Sarawak and the number of new infections started piling up.

As of Sept 13, Sarawak registered a total of 3,522 new cases while the day before, a whopping 5,291 cases were recorded. The Sept 12 figure was a record high for Sarawak.

While the new infections have skyrocketed, Sarawak has also reported the country’s second-lowest Covid-19 case fatality rate in the 35th epidemiological week (Aug 29 to Sept 4) at 0.18 percent, 16 times lower than Selangor’s 2.89 percent, according to a Ministry of Health report.

I suppose that could be considered a little consolation for Sarawak after the embarrassing ‘champion’ tag for the highest number of new infections.

So, how are we going to prepare living with the coronavirus? Ask Datuk Seri Dr Sim Kui Hian as he has a few guidelines.

He stressed that living together with Covid-19 means it is time to revert to a pre-pandemic level “as near normal as possible with lots of caution”.

Dr Sim, who is also the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) advisor, said this included resume work and businesses to protect livelihood and students returning to school for education to protect the future of all.

I am glad that Dr Sim has also touched on the mental and psychological aspects of the lockdown and its effects on the people. Some recent suicide tragedies of people known to us are probably still fresh in our memory.

“It is also time to restart socio-cultural, religious and sports activities to protect our mental and spiritual well-being to a level as near normal as possible with lots of caution without endangering the safety of the unvaccinated in our community,” he said in a Facebook post last Sunday night.

Dr Sim, who is Local Government and Housing Minister, also reiterated that “Covid-19 vaccine can keep vaccinated persons safe from death and severe diseases”.

This has been proven true. Many of the new positive cases were asymptomatic or in Category 1 with mild symptoms. Very few deaths were also reported among those who have been vaccinated.

Whether we like it or not, the argument and debate over how to live with the coronavirus and when to return to normalcy will be unending.

Those who can’t wait for the doors to open again have argued that “there will always be those who think we are the fools for taking risks by finally venturing out but let them be”.

“It’s their life, their choice to live their lives within their caves”, a reader wrote in a news portal.

“The fear mongering, unfortunately by some of those in responsible positions, has created a section of society that believes we can only stay alive by “staying at home”, he added.

I share the sentiments expressed and we have to work on living with the endemic stage as soon as possible.

Don’t we all wish to live in the UK where we can now pack the stadiums for Premier League matches or in the US where we can be in the stands for the US Open and other sporting events?

Let’s live with Covid-19 responsibly. This means we take full responsibility for all our actions, whether at home or outside, knowing full well that any wrong decisions on our part could be fatal for ourselves or our loved ones or our neighbours.

We have to do better than to depend on mere luck to avoid a fatal Covid-19 infection. That should be the first rule as we prepare to live with the disease.

The views expressed here are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the views of New Sarawak Tribune.