PETALING JAYA: As Malaysians learn to accept that Covid-19 is here to stay, most are anxious about continuing social activities and spreading the virus to loved ones.

In a poll by Sunday Star, most or 37% of respondents said they were most anxious about social activities as life goes on with the coronavirus.

Such activities include dining out, attending events and other forms of entertainment.

“People tend to forget social distancing and touch others such as by shaking hands or bersalaman,” said one Facebook user.

The second most common anxiety is returning to the workplace (22%), followed by taking public transportation like trains, buses and e-hailing vehicles (21%).

Some readers described working from home as “a blessing in disguise”, while others were fearful of being inside packed trains when commuting to work.

“Being in a crowded and confined space just sends my anxiety through the roof,” said a respondent in the three-day Facebook poll which received over 175 responses.

Others were concerned over medical services like seeing a dentist (13%) and going back to school or campus (7%), with some feeling anxious for their school-going children.

Malaysia is expected to prepare to move into an endemic Covid-19 phase by the end of October.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin had said people must begin to accept that it was time to “live with the virus”.

To ease anxiety, it helps to know what are things we can or cannot control in our lives. Here are some examples:

Sunday Star also asked readers how they felt about the coronavirus at present.

Most (35%) were worried about spreading it to their loved ones, followed by fears that others might be asymptomatic despite having Covid-19 (23%).

Some 19% of readers were concerned about variants like Delta while 17% were wary of others not following standard operating procedures (SOPs).

However, 6% were not too anxious about Covid-19 but were more concerned about things like the economy.

On anxieties about seeking medical services, the Health Ministry said it is understandable for some to be hesitant to go to clinics due to fear of being infected.

“However, it is important for patients to continue check-ups or follow-ups for underlying medical conditions.

“Patients should visit health facilities by appointment to avoid congestion,” the ministry said, adding that public health clinics have also improved ventilation by conducting virtual clinics.

To alleviate the anxiety of returning to the workplace, the ministry said vaccination is the top priority in ensuring safety and workers should always abide by SOPs to avoid clusters.

“At present, there is no legal mandate for every worker to be vaccinated.

“Nevertheless, employers should ensure that workers are vaccinated prior to returning to work,” it said.

The ministry urged employers to provide hand sanitisers, ask workers to mask up and have at least one-metre spacing at work stations and dining areas.

Malaysian Psychological Association president Assoc Prof Dr Wan Shahrazad Wan Sulaiman said although many SOPs have been loosened, people may feel still anxious.

“In future, events like birthday parties, wedding receptions or tahlil prayer ceremonies must be organised carefully to keep everybody safe,” she added.

Malaysian Mental Health Association president and consultant psychiatrist Professor Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj said while initially students were keen to return to campus, some have expressed fear of being infected, aside from apprehension using public transport.

“The predicted joy of returning to normalcy may cause more anxiety too, in terms of social life.

“Fears over maintaining physical distance and interacting with someone whose vaccination status is uncertain can be overwhelming for some.

“Questions on when to remove masks or refusing handshakes can be deemed offensive, and might also increase anxiety,” he said.

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