Coronavirus: The Malaysian Agenda

Picture Credits: Malay Mail

COVID-19 has welcomed a new era of norms and lifestyles for individuals globally. Civilians have shared apprehension towards mental health, productivity, safety along with future opportunities due to the pandemic. Unfortunately, due to the nature of origin, COVID-19 has provided a foundation for radicalists to express malaise towards Chinese and similar featured Asians — projecting hatred and intolerance that the virus “started because of them”. Despite speculations and false information spread across the media, persecution and harassment towards Chinese people remain heightened. Civilians globally have been encouraged to tyrannise Chinese and Asians due to the misconception that COVID-19 is ‘caused by China’ — individuals often ignore the fact that viruses do not discriminate. Contentious ideas of the purpose for “spreading” and “creating” the coronavirus remain controversial as minimal information had been previously published, enabling individuals to conjecture ideologies behind the ride of COVID-19.

The origins of the coronavirus dates back to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) which was the first pandemic of the 21st century, with its first reported case from Asia in February 2003. The virus had spread rapidly across the globe with 8,098 reported infected individuals and a death toll of 774. SARS was similarly spread through droplets and discharge — observably alike with the current pandemic — with an approximate of 2–7 days for symptoms to show. The coronavirus struck again with MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome) with its first reported case in Saudi Arabia in September 2012 however was believed to be transferred through contact with camels. The animal had reportedly been tested positive for MERS although studies have shown that the conveyance between animal to human or human to human have remained inconclusive — the duration for symptoms to show with MERS is the same as COVID-19 (2–14 days). MERS had 2,494 individuals that were infected with a death toll of 856 which is significantly less than SARS. The COVID-19 on the other hand has a rapid escalation of cases — currently, there are 5.08m reported cases globally with 1.94m deaths and 332k recovered patients. The symptoms within the different forms of coronavirus are relatively similar with flu-like symptoms that range in severity according to the individual. Undoubtedly, all 3 forms of the coronavirus are highly contagious and potentially fatal. Nevertheless, individuals who are risking their exposure to the virus or have been infected by the virus are susceptible towards death.

Genome sequences have proven that the coronavirus pandemic is not genetically modified or artificially created as comparatively observed by data sequencing and tracing its origins and development. COVID-19 is a highly advanced form of virus that ranges in severity and is categorised as a Coronavirus; it originated in 2003 as SARS followed by the MERS outbreak in 2012. COVID-19 was initially known as SARS-CoV-2 in December last year (2019) which resulted in a genome sequence from China to be researched and studied globally; COVID-19 features 2 spikes in protein through its receptor binding domain (RBD) and cleavage site. The COVID-19 has also demonstrated its destruction on ACE2 which disrupts blood pressure. The coronavirus’ molecular structure indicates that the virus is a result of natural selection; its contagiousness is transferred through human contact in close proximity, contact with contaminated surfaces due to droplets from a carrier. Thankfully, coronavirus screenings in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, are available at the following hospitals:

  1. Hospital Kuala Lumpur (infected individuals will be treated here)
  2. Hospital Putrajaya
  3. Pusat Perubatan Universiti Malaya
  4. Pantai Premier Pathology Sdn Bhd
  5. Qualitas Medical Group Sdn Mhd
  6. Gleneagles Kuala Lumpur
  7. Pantai Hospital KL, Cheras, Klang
  8. Twin Tower Medical Centre

Debates on how the coronavirus is treated has spread — right from malaria to HIV medication — however the truth is that different medical treatments are used on infected individuals. COVID-19 is treated using incubation, respiratory devices and a combination of medication. Questions have arisen regarding antibiotic treatment for the coronavirus however antibiotics can only be used to treat bacterial or fungal infections — not viruses. Vaccines testings are still ongoing and human trials have yet to be completed successfully — the prototype vaccines include genetic codes for spiked levels of proteins as viewed in SARS (2002). Scientists are unclear as to why adults and the elderly are more vulnerable to the coronavirus than children — a theory suggests that children do not have pre-existing antibodies that would compromise their wellbeing and children have different cytokine responses according to illnesses. Regardless of the child’s likelihood in survival, they are not immune to the coronavirus with incidentally reported deaths of children between 12–14 years old. It is a misconception to assume that children with the coronavirus will not be infected despite not having any underlying, primary illnesses. Children continue to show mild symptoms or sometimes none, whereas adults have shown more serious symptoms that include the following:

  1. Fever
  2. Cough
  3. Shortness of breath
  4. Persistent pain/pressure in the chest
  5. Nasal congestion
  6. Runny nose
  7. Sore throat
  8. Diarrhoea
  9. Aches/pains

The coronavirus is highly contagious hence social distancing and staying at home are highly recommended during the pandemic. The COVID-19 is transferable via surfaces to humans; saliva droplets and nasal discharge reaching the surface would cause contamination that potentially lasts up to 9 days such as metal, glass and plastic however lower temperatures have the potential to ferment the illness for 28 days. Coronavirus droplets are able to last for a maximum of 3 hours after an individual has coughed out the droplets thus constantly disinfecting surfaces with 62–71% alcohol, 0.5% hydrogen peroxide bleach or 0.1% sodium hypochlorite household bleach — thus motivating individuals to sanitise surfaces regularly. It is imperative for individuals to remain indoors and not leave the house unless it’s exceedingly crucial (such as buying groceries or seeking medical attention).

Malaysia’s situation of the coronavirus has reported 7,059 cases, 114 deaths and 5,796 recoveries. 95% of infected individuals have mild symptoms and are currently treated in hospitals. Residents, civilians and foreigners living in Malaysia were declared a nation-wide lockdown from March 18 until April 14 (as per phases 1 and 2). Updates on the lockdown are broadcasted which are accessible on Astro Awani. Education for most age groups is online which is available through videos or video calling sessions and some exams are replaced with assignments however examinations remain unsolved. Previously, individuals were not allowed to leave the house however the head of the family is permitted to leave in order to purchase groceries. Currently, Malaysia is experiencing CMCO (Conditional Movement Control Order) which permits individuals to leave their homes, practice social distancing and curfews are lifted. The CMCO will end on June 9 2020 however this remains inconclusive due to unpredictable predicaments that lie ahead.

Despite Malaysia’s cosmopolitanism, radical racism has prevailed during this vulnerable time. Religious institutes and festivals with mass gatherings have provoked individuals to unleash suppressed intolerance and bigotry towards racial minorities; the emphasis on race was scripted through references regarding countries of origin, xenophobic profanities and chauvinist claims of a Malaysia without minorities. Individuals who are undergoing quarantine in government facilities have shared photographs on social media regarding the unacceptable, unsanitary living conditions. Inevitably, prejudiced comments were left and targeted towards individuals who rely primarily on empathy, justice and transparency. The fascist remarks posted on social media have discouraged individuals to seek medical attention when displaying symptoms of COVID-19.

Undoubtedly, the transparency of reported cases remains questionable due to the heavy stigma of the coronavirus. Malaysians anticipate a second wave of the pandemic as civilians have notably practiced social distancing irresponsibly in unsanitary manners. It is common to witness civilians attending mass events without masks and practicing adequate hygiene. Ultimately, the CMCO has been proclaimed too early with civilians abusing privileges and traveling inter-state. Malaysians have expressed their dissatisfaction with the irresponsible measures taken by civilians as well as relief to have minimal forms of liberty. Fundamentally, COVID-19 requires cooperation and accountability to combat the spread — all of which leads to the hope of successful vaccine trials to end the pandemic.

Writing portfolio | IG: @/thea.writer

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Thea Babani

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Writing portfolio | IG: @/thea.writer

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