Pandemic fatigue


This pandemic has magnified every existing inequality in our society — like systemic racism, gender inequality, and poverty.

— Melinda Gates, American philanthropist

Lockdowns, MCOs, SOPs. Will we be going through the whole cycle again this year?

Do we have to start planning for a permanent pandemic?

I mean, at the moment, we are seeing COVID-19 variants after variants, followed by vaccinations after vaccinations to protect us.

It looks like there is an ongoing competitive race between the many COVID-19 variant viruses and vaccines that have been rolled out dose after dose one after another.

Since the Omicron variant was first detected in November 2021, World Health Organisation (WHO) data shows it has spread quickly. It has been reported that the Omicron variant has spread to at least 128 countries.

In the meantime, Israel has now even moved on towards administering fourth doses of Pfizer to people over 60, health workers and immunocompromised patients.

In an international news report, it was stated that a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose boosts antibodies five-fold by an Israeli study.

In Sarawak, we are fortunate that the majority of us have been vaccinated with two doses and there is an active booster shot programme in progress.

Currently, there have only been 301 cases over the 14 days in Sarawak and this is good news.

Much thanks to all the concerned authorities and all the people who have made strong efforts to follow the health-related SOPs.

So far, there are seven confirmed cases of Omicron in Sarawak and more are expected due to its highly infectious nature.

However, due to the high vaccination rate in Sarawak, let’s hope the Omicron virus will not hit us as badly as in some other countries. A total of 2,129,829 people have been fully vaccinated here, forming 75.6 per cent of the population.

To date, also a total of 1,266,299 people here have received their booster. This equates to 45.0 per cent of the population.

There is a strong effort by the Sarawak government to roll out the vaccination programme for children aged 3 to 11 that is expected to begin next month.

If, and once this proceeds, even a larger percentage of Sarawakians will be fully vaccinated and thereby hopefully mitigating the onslaught of the variant amongst our populace.

In preparation for such a potential surge in infections, the government is setting up a field hospital, costing approximately RM1.5 million, including beds and various equipment. Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Dr Sim Kui Hian said this was funded by the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC).

We can rest assured that the government, led by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg, will be implementing more of such programmes by utilising our funds to protect Sarawakians during this critical time.

While we are waiting and preparing for the potential Omicron surge now, I am sure many are asking how many more waves, variants and vaccines do we have to put up with?

There are 24 characters in the Greek alphabet. Omicron is the 15th character. The 13th (Nu) and 14th (Xi) characters of the alphabet were never used. Let’s pray, we do not go all the way and face the other nine variants of the alphabet or more.

Ultimately, however, it looks increasing likely that accepting endemicity is the only option. Therefore, whatever variants are thrown at us for the moment, we just have to live with it in our communities.

This is because if we start going into a series of continuous lockdowns again, there will again be huge disruptions to people’s lives, incomes and economy. We do not want a scenario whereby we reach a point of no return from a devastated economy. This would harm the lives of even more people than the pandemic.

We have to be resilient and ride out this wave and any other waves and not allow ourselves to be worn down due to fatigue from the many pandemic related issues.

But do take heart, due to human ingenuity, I am confident that just as cures have been found for other viruses, there are bound to be solutions in the pipeline.

Therefore, it seems this new normal is with us for some time to come. It would be better to adopt and adapt to it rather than ignore or resist. Darwin’s Theory does bear out the fact that those who adapt to new norms will survive longer.

In the meantime, while the relevant authorities are carrying out their duty to protect us from this and future variants, let us also do our duty as responsible individuals and follow the SOPs to protect our families and each other.

Do stay positive (no pun intended) and stay safe!

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

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