Sunday, June 13, 2021

Toe the line or lose it all, health experts warn on park ‘loophole’ in SOPs

While many are taking advantage of the freedom for individual exercise to meet up with others, health experts say this could lead to a complete ban on outdoor activities.

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Health experts say outdoor activities may soon be banned altogether in a warning for those who use the leeway given for exercise as a loophole to meet up with others despite the Covid-19 SOPs in place across the country.

They also urged the public to take a serious view of the matter and adhere to the SOPs to avoid the enforcement of stricter measures if violations continue to occur.

Under the current movement control order, known as MCO 3.0, people are allowed to carry out individual outdoor activities like walking, jogging and cycling in a departure from the initial move to completely ban such pursuits.

Dr Raj Kumar Maharajah, who heads the Medical Practitioners Coalition Association of Malaysia, said the government had not been keen on allowing any form of outdoor activity until medical organisations and doctors pleaded for some elbow room in the interest of the people’s physical and mental well-being.

“The government has given this leeway for only one reason: so that people who are stuck at home can also get some exercise.”

“That’s why the government allowed jogging and cycling to be carried out,” he said.

However, checks showed that many have been using this as a means of meeting up and hanging out with friends or family members.

Dr Kuljit Singh, president of the Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia, cautioned against misusing the freedom given for individual activities.

“The government has given this leeway for only one reason: so that people who are stuck at home can also get some exercise.

“But there’s a very strict condition: you must have social distancing,” he said, adding that this should be the case even for members of the same household.

He said although Covid-19 transmission in the open air is lower than in an enclosed space, there is still a risk of contracting the virus if people are close to each other.

He said it was possible that the government would consider implementing SOPs similar to those put in place during the first MCO last year, imposing a blanket ban on all outdoor activities if SOPs are violated.

“People have to follow the SOPs and not abuse them, because then the government will tell you to stop and stay home,” he said.

Raj agreed that gathering in groups at parks and lakesides increases the risk of community transmission.

“There’s a strong possibility that somebody could be a close contact or carrier of the virus, and eventually spread it to others,” he said.

He said part of the problem is that many Malaysians feel that their health and well-being are the responsibility of the government and doctors.

He said such happy-go-lucky attitudes play a major role in why many are not following the SOPs.

“This is why they choose to hang out in parks with friends or family members, even at a time when they shouldn’t.”

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