Some expert advice on how to keep your whole family safe when you balik kampung.
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Now that everyone is allowed to travel interstate, it’s important to follow the standard operating procedures (SOP) to keep the number of Covid-19 infections low.
Following the SOP also helps to protect young children who are not yet eligible to get vaccinated. The government has still not decided whether to include children under 12 years old in the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK).
If you’re planning to travel with children under the age of 12, here are a few things families can do to keep each other safe.
Test yourself before the journey
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin has urged individuals planning to return to their hometown to perform the RTK-Antigen test first. So, don’t forget to get your kids tested as well.
This is to help detect the virus early and to prevent Covid-19 from balik kampung with you.
Pack enough food and drinks
Occupational health, emergency and public health specialist Dr Hanafiah Bashirun recommends packing enough food and drinks for the journey. This is to minimise the need to stop at a restaurant or rest and recreation areas along the highways.
If the family has to stop at a restaurant to buy food, it’s best if only one person steps out to get food to be eaten in the car. As always, remember to sanitise your hands before entering the vehicle again.
To keep children happy during the journey, it’s good to have a combination of healthy snacks and their favourite tidbits on hand.
Avoid crowded places
Dr Hanafiah also advised families to avoid crowded places such as tourist sites and to reduce the number of stops along the journey. Making too many public stops in areas where there are a lot of people mingling around increases the risk of infection in children and elderly folks too.
Make sure children wear masks when they’re running around in public and remember to sanitise their hands.
Make sure kids have their vaccinations
According to Hospital Universiti Teknologi MARA deputy director (clinical) Associate Prof Dr Ahmad Izuanuddin Ismail, taking children to a crowded area may expose them to more bacterial infections that can affect their respiratory tract and lungs.
Other than the Covid-19 virus, parents must remember that other bacteria and viruses can easily infect children too. Sometimes, influenza and pneumococcal infections can do more damage.
As such, Dr Ahmad Izuanuddin reminds parents to make sure their children already received all the vaccines under the National Immunisation Programme for children and infants to protect them against diseases such as influenza, pneumonia, whooping cough and Haemophilus influenzae.
Conduct Covid-19 self-tests regularly
Upon arrival at your hometown, it’s a must to do a Covid-19 self-test to detect the virus early. Since the family might meet up with relatives and friends too, Dr Hanafiah added that self-tests should be done regularly throughout their stay.
As such, it’s best to stock self-test kits for the whole family because it’s cheaper than doing swab tests in a clinic.
It might be difficult to carry out a self-test on younger children. In this case, it might be more comfortable for them to have their tests done at a clinic.
These standard operating procedures may seem overly cautious but it’s better to keep the family safe and have an enjoyable trip home than ending up in a hospital.