With the majority of Malaysians returning to work this week, sentiments were high about exposing themselves to the rapidly spreading coronavirus.
The fear was not unfounded.
A northern region of Japan is currently experiencing a second wave of coronavirus infections after its state of emergency was lifted too early.
More than a hundred new infections
reported that earlier, Hokkaido had been an example of how the spread of the virus could be controlled, but the island has now, unfortunately, also become a case study for the impact of the disease if a lockdown is relaxed too soon.
A state of emergency was declared by Naomichi Suzuki, the prefectural governor, on 29 February after a sudden rise of cases, which reportedly could be traced back to the popular Sapporo Snow Festival that attracted more than two million visitors from around the world.
Hokkaido’s state of emergency saw the closing of schools, cancellation of large-scale gatherings and people were encouraged to stay at home.
When the COVID-19 figures show an improvement, Hokkaido decided to lift the state of emergency on 19 March - just 19 days after the lockdown was imposed.
However, the decision proved to be a costly one, as the island reported 135 new infections in the space of a week.
As a result, just 26 days laters, Hokkaido had to reimpose a lockdown on its 5.3 million residents.
“At the time, we didn’t have enough information and we did not have an adequate understanding of this disease.
“And, given the information that was available - that new cases were down to one or two a day - it could be argued that the governor made the right decision in lifting the state of emergency”, Yoko Tsukamoto, a professor of infection control at the Health Sciences University of Hokkaido told The Telegraph
According to the report, the second lockdown is scheduled to end on 6 May.
Take extra precaution
Professor Tsukamoto believe that Hokkaido's second wave could have been avoided if the lockdown remained in place for a while longer.
“These lockdowns and states of emergency will have to be lifted eventually, but the lesson is to wait as long as possible, to get accurate data on infection numbers and to be very, very cautious when the rules are relaxed”, she was quoted as saying.
Experts are now hoping that other countries who are considering lifting their lockdown should first learn from Hokkaido's experience and ensure that everything is in place in case of a relapse.
“And the authorities have to be ready to move quickly and put the restrictions back in place at the first sign of another surge”, Professor Tsukamoto was further quoted as saying.
Let’s hope that the same thing doesn’t happen in Malaysia!