With Malaysia’s Covid-19 vaccination efforts proceeding at full speed, we’re likely looking at a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin recently said Malaysia would reclassify Covid-19 from a pandemic to endemic by the end of October when 80 percent of the adult population is vaccinated. That would mean loosening the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that are currently regulating our daily lives.
In addition, domestic travel restrictions are likely to be lifted, although overseas travel for holidays would likely only be permitted in early or mid-next year. Before you celebrate by crossing state borders, remember that it doesn’t mean Covid-19 has magically disappeared. An endemic disease means Covid-19 will continue to linger around, like the common cold or dengue, but serious cases will be significantly fewer than the current rates. The disease could be deadly for some, but not in numbers big enough to make the daily news.
So how would this affect families who want to go on a holiday? Surely they cannot stay at home interminably, but how can they stay safe out there? What are the safety tips they can observe when travelling?
VACCINATE YOUR KIDS
Before thinking of a holiday, the first thing you should do is register your children aged 12 to 17 for the vaccine. In Malaysia, vaccination for children in that age group starts this month, beginning with those who have underlying medical conditions, and starting with the oldest children.
Studies have shown that vaccines can protect children from the impact of Covid-19, by reducing the likelihood of getting infected and reducing the likelihood of severe infections with long lasting effects, even if symptoms are often milder in children. Meanwhile, although still rare, the death rate among unvaccinated children has been rising.
Beyond that, vaccinated children are also less likely to transmit the virus to family members and friends who are more vulnerable to a severe infection, not to mention, being fully vaccinated could help stop the cycle of community spread that leads to new variants emerging. Nevertheless, even as scientists continue to study the suitability of vaccination for children below 12, concerned parents can seek medical advice on the likelihood of adverse events among minors, as there have been rare incidents of children developing myocarditis or inflammation of the heart after receiving Covid-19 vaccination.
SAFETY TIPS PRE AND WHILE TRAVELLING
While waiting for your children to be vaccinated, you can still travel, but it is always advisable to have Covid-19 prevention practices in place. The main thing you should have is a checklist.
- Conduct research on the infection rate at your desired holiday destination as well as the percentage of vaccinated people among the population.
- If you booked a hotel or resort, find out what the occupancy rate is – the fewer guests, the better, although that could mean a more expensive stay. Most importantly, are all the staff vaccinated?
- Before leaving for your trip, get yourself tested for Covid-19. You can do this in the comfort of your home with home test kits approved by the Medical Device Authority under the Ministry of Health. Even if the tests are negative, reconsider your trip if you are feeling under the weather. Better to be safe than sorry.
- Pack extra face masks and change them every three to four hours. Do double mask and consider using face shields as well. If you are flying, use N95 masks.
- Carry extra hand sanitiser and alcohol wipes and use them often to wipe all areas. Sanitise the luggage and accommodation after checking in.
- Bring 2-3 days’ worth of extra medication as accidents can happen. You could drop or misplace some.
- Keep a list of your family’s names, dates of birth, allergies and medication needs.
- Purchase a medical travel plan.
- Pack snacks and drinks, especially water, to minimise interaction with strangers during travel.
- Pack what you will need at the destination, to reduce impromptu shopping trips.
- Prepare water bottles to be filled at the destination if flying.
- For younger children, consider comfort items that will keep them calm in the new surroundings.
- If you are flying, do a proper wipe down of the armrests, seats and tray tables.
- Stay alert and be cautious. It is advisable to have an hourly sanitisation schedule as kids often tend to run around and may touch stuff without you noticing.
- Remember to practice physical distancing.
BEST PLACES TO VACATION
The outdoors is the best place for holidays, and Langkawi is a great choice. From 16 September 2021, fully vaccinated adults and the children under their care can visit Langkawi under the first domestic travel bubble programme in Malaysia. Outdoors-oriented activities like golfing, cycling, fishing, sailing, rafting, camping, mountain climbing, jungle trekking and cave exploration will be the main focus. Other activities like visiting theme parks and family entertainment centres, as well as participating in cultural activities and business events will also be possible. What is required is an approval letter from the police – and a trip booking with a travel agency, a flight booking or just a car if you’re driving over from Perlis or the Kedah mainland. Over in Terengganu, Pulau Redang and Pulau Kapas have resumed snorkelling and diving activities on 1 September 2021 for fully vaccinated local residents. That was in anticipation of borders opening up.
Meanwhile, fully-vaccinated people in states that are under Phase Two (currently Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Perak, Penang, Sabah and Melaka) and Phase Three (currently Perlis, Labuan, Sarawak and Negeri Sembilan) of the National Recovery Plan can travel freely within their state. There are many great places to visit without crossing state borders.
STAY SAFE, TRAVEL BY CAR
If possible, travel by car to your holiday destination, as you will only interact with those in the vehicle. No need to line up at counters or have strangers handling your luggage. You could travel in a vehicle you own, or you could consider getting one from a car sharing platform such as SOCAR or TREVO.
Why use them? For one thing, it would put your mind at ease as they use medical-grade disinfectants to wipe down the interior of the vehicles, with extra attention given to commonly touched surface areas like door handles, centre consoles, steering wheels, buttons and switches and seat belts. Making a booking and paying is contactless as everything is done via the app, so there is no need to interact with strangers.
Enjoy your holidays, and remember, stay safe.