Schools Reopen in Malaysia: Doctor's Advise on How to Prepare Your Child Amidst the COVID Pandemic
Malaysia's movement control order (MCO) has now entered the recovery phase. Various business activities and economic sectors will reopen, of course, under strict regulations. Meanwhile, our Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education are currently discussing regarding the reopening of schools for children in stages, starting with those who will be sitting major exams like SPM and STPM. Despite the relatively low number of cases in the past few days, we have yet to achieve the status of COVID-free! Until then, we need to ensure that we do our level best to curb the spread of this virus and that includes teaching our children how to protect themselves when they finally return to school.
Teaching your children to keep safe is not as complicated as it seems. Perhaps, it can be a tad tedious but repetition only brings about perfection. Here are some of the everyday preventive actions that every school-going child should practice as schools reopen in Malaysia.
1. Good hand hygiene
Start observing how your child washes his or her hands at home using soap and water. Effective hand-washing should be at least 20 seconds; equivalent to singing the Happy birthday song twice! Proper steps for hand-washing can be easily attained on line via Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. Hand-washing is a must after coming into contact with items or surfaces frequently touched by other people, such as door handles, tables, chairs, etc. Hands should be washed before touching eyes, nose and mouth to prevent germs from entering the body. If there is no available water source, the next best option is to use a hand sanitiser containing at least 60% alcohol.
2. Put on a mask
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends the usage of fabric mask in settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained. On the other hand, a medical mask should be reserved for children or individuals who are unwell, suspected or confirmed COVID cases and health care workers. Are all fabric mask the same? The answer is no.
A good fabric mask should preferably have:
- An inner layer of absorbent material such as cotton;
- a middle layer of non-woven material such as polypropylene;
- and outer layer of non-absorbent material such as polyester or polyester blend.
Always keep extra clean masks in a zip lock bag and separate them from soiled face masks.
3. Practice social distancing
Advice children to stay at between one to two apart metres from their schoolmates at all times – in the classroom, during recess time and even when using the restroom! Children should also learn to keep their hands at their sides and refrain from touching surfaces indiscriminately. Acts like shaking of hands, slapping high five or hugging should be discouraged. Sharing of personal items such as eating utensils is also a no-no. Participation in close contact sports should be put on hold until further notice.
4. Taking a bath after coming home
A child should take a shower immediately after coming back from school before interacting with other family members. Although clothing may not be a conducive environment for germs to grow, it is better to be safe than sorry.
5. Sick children should stay at home
Children who are unwell should be kept at home until they are better. Isolating a sick person is one of the best methods to contain a virus or bacteria from spreading. Thanks to the MCO coupled with good hygiene practices, the numbers of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) cases dropped by 44.6%, while Measles reduced by 58.3% followed by Chickenpox (44.4%) compared to the number of cases in 2019.
6. Ensure your child's vaccination is up to date
Vaccination is the best proven immune booster. Vaccinated children are protected from vaccine-preventable diseases like Mumps, Measles, Rubella, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Influenza, and the list goes on. Please take this opportunity to go through their immunisation book or discuss with your child specialist regarding optional vaccines that may benefit your child before returning to school.
Dr. JoAnn Rajah is a child specialist that provides paediatric care to baby and children in Selangor and KL. Her core strength lies in diagnosing early signs of child health issues and guiding parents on how to manage them. For more information visit Dr JoAnn Child Specialist and at her Facebook page.