Covid-19 may just be the answer for a healthier Malaysia

Malaysians have been suffering from non-communicable diseases (NCD) for far too long, so much so that it is almost a given that one would suffer from diabetes or cardiovascular disease at some point in a person’s life.

The high rate of NCDs boils down to the lack of exercise, poor eating habits and taking life for granted.

Covid-19 could just change that.

As the country moves to some semblance of normalcy following months of lockdowns and restrictions, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin yesterday tweeted: “One key and simple message as we are reopening safely and transitioning towards endemicity is: live healthier lives.

“Eat well, exercise, go for regular health screening. Most who suffered from the worst outcomes of Covid-19, i.e. death and intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, had comorbidities.”

Khairy pretty much echoed what Prime Minister Boris Johnson had been saying since the British premier’s near-death experience last year.

After recovering from Covid-19, Johnson was quoted as saying: “I’ve been steadily building up my fitness. I am at least a stone down. But when I went into ICU, when I was really ill, I was way overweight. I was too fat. I (now) start the day by going for a run with the dog.”

He has since got the whole nation to buy into his healthy lifestyle habit.

In March, Johnson told Britons “we will bounce back better together” as he continued to champion weight loss and healthy eating.

Covid-19 has created an awareness of sorts with regard to hygiene. Many are reminded of what their elders used to tell them – wash your hands with soap regularly, and cover your mouth when you sneeze.

These are simple habits that we took for granted.

Malaysia had been struggling to be a sporting nation, something Khairy can attest to.

In a way, Covid-19 has created a generation of people who are more health conscious. The lockdowns made people appreciate the freedoms they once took for granted as they indulge in long walks, jog around the park, or cycle for hours.

Nevertheless, it remains to be seen if this habit will last; if people will continue to sweat it out regularly and eat the right foods.

As eateries begin to open till midnight, and soon with the relaxation of the rules, till the early hours of the morning, Malaysians could once again fall into their old habits.

This would mean futsal or badminton at 10pm, followed by mee goreng double telur mata and several glasses of overly sweet, iced Milo, over a three-hour ‘lepak’ session at the mamak joint.

With over 25,000 deaths and counting, families and friends have been forced to deal with the pain and loss as their loved ones succumb to the virus.

The farewells have been gut wrenching, with immediate family members – forced by circumstance – to watch from afar, as the bodies of their loved ones are committed to the earth.

The pandemic has made us re-evaluate our priorities, and realise just how fragile life is.

Covid-19 is here to stay. It will transition into an endemic. This would mean living with the coronavirus.

Hopefully, the lessons learnt from the months of uncertainty, anguish, fear, and despair will result in Malaysians exercising regularly, taking control of what they consume, and appreciate life.

This could very well be the key to turning Malaysia into a sporting nation.