Covid-19 Prevention & Precautionary Measures
By Alicia Tan Siew Yik & Kousalya Vijendran (BAC Apprentices)
Fully-vaccinated individuals in states under Phase Two and above of the National Recovery Plan (NRP) are ecstatic as the government announces more relaxations. From reopening of tourist destinations to dine-in privileges, you name it. More business sectors have reopened.
On 23rd September 2021, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar said that the goal of achieving herd immunity is no longer realistic due to Delta variant’s high transmissibility. Therefore, the government has shifted its strategy and plans to vaccinate all eligible individuals, including adults and adolescents by end of the year.
The National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK), according to Dr. Kalaiarasu M. Peariasamy, Director of the Clinical Research Centre, National Institute of Health (NIH) of the Ministry of Health (MOH), has contributed to the recent drop in new Covid19 cases and the trend of deaths since the beginning of September. According to the Special Committee on COVID-19 Vaccine Supply (JKJAV), 83.7% of adults are fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
You are considered to be fully vaccinated after 14 days upon receiving 2 doses of Covid-19 vaccine. This allows the body to develop immunological memory against the real COVID-19 antigens. Despite being fully vaccinated, you should always remain vigilant and take necessary precautions to protect yourself and those around you because the deadly virus is still spreading and possibly mutating.
The Malaysian MOH (Ministry of Health), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) have all issued guidelines on what it means to be fully vaccinated and what we can or cannot do.
Here are some things you should know:
1.Cleaning your living space regularly is essential.
It all begins at home. According to the CDC, cleaning alone removes most virus particles from surfaces. Disinfection is only required if someone in your home is sick or if someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 has been in your home within the last 24 hours.
2.Wearing a face mask can prevent the spread of Covid-19 virus.
Wearing a mask is a key measure in suppressing transmission of the contagious Delta variant. Mask is a simple barrier to help prevent your respiratory droplets from reaching others, especially in crowded indoor public places. This is because the virus spreads predominantly through droplets released into the air while speaking, coughing, or sneezing.
3.Types of masks to be worn.
Not all masks offer the same level of protection. The effectiveness of wearing masks depends on how well the mask fits, how well it filters the air, and how many layers it has. Generally, everyone should wear masks with adequate filtration capability.
Initially, WHO recommended that medical masks or surgical masks be reserved for health workers and at-risk individuals. However, it is now advisable for the public to wear medical masks to maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possibly spreading it to others. According to MOH, the adequate protection rate of N95 respirators was a higher and better fit than that of KF94 masks, so using KF94 is not recommended. Non-medical masks or fabric masks can be worn only if it is properly fitted over your nose and mouth. Single-layer fabric mask is considered ineffective.
4.Effectiveness of double-masking.
Cloth and disposable masks (double-masking) can be used to achieve a better fit and additional protection. One is advised to put on two masks (disposable mask underneath and cloth mask on top) in crowded settings.
5.You can still get infected with Covid-19 even if you are fully vaccinated (‘vaccine breakthrough infection’).
This breakthrough infection does not necessarily mean the vaccine is failing. Instead, it protects you from getting seriously ill. It depends on several factors, including age, underlying health conditions, level of exposure, and areas of substantial or high transmission of virus variants. Even if you contract Covid-19, you would either be asymptomatic or only experience mild symptoms.
6.You are still considered infectious even if you are fully vaccinated.
If you have been tested positive despite being fully vaccinated, there is a risk of transmitting the Covid-19 virus to others. However, the CDC states that the risk of transmission is low. While all available vaccines can recognise Delta variant spike proteins and neutralise them, it is worth noting the high transmissibility of the virus strain. Therefore, if you have been tested positive, please inform the nearest Covid-19 Assessment Centres (CAC), and undergo self-quarantine.
If you are fully inoculated, you should continue to practice preventative measures such as wearing masks, avoiding crowded places, practice social distancing, and washing your hands regularly. Always adhere to the standard operating procedures (SOPs) and do not post photos of your digital vaccine certificate online. Despite the steady decline of new Covid-19 cases, we must not allow complacency to set in and jeopardize all the hard work everyone had done.
We must remain vigilant against this invisible enemy. Let’s bring Covid-19 to an end.