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KUALA LUMPUR, July 23 (Bernama) – Nearly 18 months have passed since the first three COVID-19 cases were reported in Malaysia on Jan 25, 2020, and people still are wondering with exasperation how much longer they would have to put up with the pandemic.
The outlook, currently, does not seem too rosy considering that five-figure new infections are being reported daily nationwide since July 13 when 11,079 new cases were registered.
Daily fatalities due to COVID-19 have also been relatively high with the highest number (199 cases) reported on July 21. Indeed, pandemic fatigue is gripping the people, what’s more healthcare workers who have been showing a high level of commitment to their work and slogging day and night since early last year.
Our medical frontliners are already suffering from burnout and, of late, their “voices of exhaustion” have been ringing louder on social media. There is barely any hope of this pandemic easing anytime soon what with the Ministry of Health projecting a higher number of cases in the coming weeks, no thanks to the highly transmissible and more aggressive Delta variant.
This is why our frontliners are greatly in need of psychosocial help to enable them to maintain the momentum and continue providing the best treatment to COVID-19 patients.
Unfortunately, certain quarters are seemingly impervious to the feelings of this nation’s weary frontliners. Why, some netizens have taken to predicting a spike in daily new COVID-19 cases via posts plastered with the hashtag #Roadto20k, which was trending on Twitter recently. For the record, a similar “campaign”, with the hashtag #Roadto10k, had been trending earlier this month.
Of course, not all netizens are in support of these uncalled for “campaigns” and many of them have demanded that the hashtag be removed immediately.
Community health medicine expert Prof Dr Sharifa Ezat Wan Puteh said such social media campaigns only serve to dishearten healthcare workers who have been making immeasurable sacrifices.
“Currently, both government and private hospital staff are out there working in places such as CACs (COVID-19 Assessment Centres) and all of them are feeling the strain. Many of them have to contend with staff shortages as they have to replace their colleagues who are under quarantine.
“They are also burdened with the high patient load, shortage of medical equipment and so on, such as at UKM’s Faculty of Medicine,” Dr Sharifa Ezat, who is attached to the Faculty of Medicine at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), told Bernama.
Welcoming a recent announcement by the government that additional medical facilities and healthcare staff would be provided, she said they (frontliners) also hoped the public would provide moral support by remaining united and “fighting alongside with us during these critical times”.
DESTROY THE INVISIBLE ENEMY
Last month, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah was quoted as saying that studies carried out on 893 healthcare staff to assess the prevalence of burnout among Malaysia’s frontline workers during the pandemic showed that the prevalence of personal-related burnout was 53.8 percent among pharmacists and healthcare workers at the district level.
Dr Noor Hisham said the prevalence of work-related burnout was 39.1 percent, with assistant environmental health officers and laboratory staff recording the highest percentage. Meanwhile, the prevalence of patient-related burnout was 17.4 percent among paramedics and healthcare workers in private hospitals.
Dr Sharifa Ezat opined that now is not the time to point the finger at anyone because it would not help to solve the problem. Instead, the most important thing now is for every member of the public to do their part to destroy their invisible enemy.
“This is the time for us to work together and circulate positive (messages) because it will, to some extent, give us (frontliners) moral support,” she said.
Meanwhile, International Islamic University Malaysia psychiatrist and lecturer Dr Rozanizam Zakaria blamed social media campaigns such as #Roadto20k on pandemic fatigue.
Urging the public to be rational in handling the current scenario, he said the pandemic is making people emotional as well as feel angry, tired, frustrated and sad.
“When people become emotional, they need to express (how they feel) and they use social media as a platform to express their emotions.
“However, people should be rational and realistic about what is happening. It’s not wrong to get angry but by trending #Roadto20k, they will not be able to solve their problems. Instead, they would hurt the feelings of others, especially the frontliners, COVID-19 patients and those facing hardship,” he said.
He said in the war against COVID-19, the public can do their part by getting themselves vaccinated, strictly observing the necessary standard operating procedures and refraining from circulating fake news that can trigger panic.
“Extending one’s appreciation to the frontliners through their speeches and prayers will also help to strengthen them psychologically,” he added.
Translated by Rema Nambiar
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