Staying safe during the transition to Covid endemicity

KUALA LUMPUR, May 3 – Although the government has lifted various Covid-19 restrictions, such as physical distancing and outdoor mask mandates, the virus is still circulating in Malaysia.

Continuing to follow the basic health protocols that have been practiced over the past two years of the pandemic will help reduce the risk of contracting Covid-19, even if Malaysia transitions to endemicity or a permanent life phase with the airborne virus for at least the foreseeable future.

Dr Kumitaa Theva Das, a virologist from Universiti Sains Malaysia, said the highest transmission of Covid-19 often occurs in a poorly ventilated confined space, where there is close contact over an extended period.

“The SOPs (standard operating procedures) that we practiced, such as wearing a well-fitting mask, physical distancing and good ventilation, go a long way in preventing infection,” Dr Kumitaa said. Code blue.

“The more you practice these habits, the more you are able to reduce the risk of infection. Disinfecting your hands or washing your hands with soap also compensates for being in a room that has not been cleaned and recently disinfected.

“Now, armed with more than two years of knowledge, the facts are clear. People, not surfaces, are the primary cause of transmission. »

High-risk locations, including poorly ventilated areas with high mobility and shared spaces, may require more frequent cleaning or disinfection measures. Dr. Kumitaa said ordinary household cleaning products are enough for this.

“If someone has recently tested positive for Covid-19, only then is it recommended to clean and disinfect surfaces with specialist solutions to prevent the risk of transmission to others in the same space.

“Recommended products include virucidal surface disinfectants, such as 0.05% sodium hypochlorite (NaClO) and ethanol-based products (at least 70%). If none of these products are available , disinfectant wipes can also be used.

Dr Kumitha said transmission of Covid-19 occurs in three ways: inhalation of air carrying infectious droplets and aerosol particles, splashing or spraying (sneezing, speaking and even breathing) on ​​the mucous membranes (eyes, nose and mouth), or fomite transmission (transmission through contaminated surfaces).

“Of all the modes of transmission listed, transmission of Covid-19 occurs primarily through the air compared to fomite transmission.”

According to Dr Kumitha, a well-maintained, periodically inspected and cleaned air conditioning system, with the use of effective filters, does not necessarily present a risk of transmission of Covid-19.

However, when an air conditioner is not maintained properly, the system can recirculate contaminated air or create the ideal indoor microenvironment (temperature and humidity) that promotes virus survival, she added.

“Overall, there is no evidence to suggest that a well-maintained air conditioner will increase the risk of Covid transmission.”

The government eased Covid-19 restrictions effective May 1, including no longer requiring physical distancing, wearing face masks outside, or checking in public places through the MySejahtera app. The legal requirement for positive Covid-19 cases to self-isolate has been reduced from seven to four days.

Strong increase in sales of disinfectant products during the pandemic

A disinfectant spray outside a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur. Photo taken by Boo Su-Lyn on January 26, 2022.

Sia Ban Ian, the founder of Bactakleen, said code blue that his company, which sells disinfectant products, has seen its sales increase by almost 700% since 2019.

Bactakleen’s disinfectant products ranged from RM25 to RM200, depending on the size and specific functions of the products.

In addition to this, a total of 5,669 products correspond CodeBlue’s search, “automatic disinfectant spray machine for Covid”, on the Lazada online shopping platform from February 25.

This includes a variety of automatic gun-shaped vaporizers and machines, electric nano-mist vaporizer, car sanitizer, and mini fogger machine used in cars. Prices for these items usually ranged from RM10 to RM180.

Stores selling these products were mainly located in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor. There were a few stores registered in other states like Perak, Kedah, Johor, Melaka and Penang as well as overseas stores.

A search for “disinfectant liquid” returned 53,120 products to Lazada. These products include a 50ml disinfectant spray and up to ten liters of disinfectant liquid. Some product descriptions also claimed that they were approved by the Ministry of Health (MOH).

According to public health expert, Professor Dr Lokman Hakim Sulaiman, regular cleaning products like soap are sufficient to clean contaminated surfaces.

He pointed out that sanitizing agents and sprays only give a “false sense of protection” to consumers.

“Just use soap – cheap and effective for surface contamination. Aerosol disinfectant for space spraying is also not effective,” Dr Lokman said. code blue.

It is important to note that the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points out that ordinary cleaning products like soap or detergent are sufficient to clean surfaces to kill the coronavirus.

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