Saturday, May 30

Protecting yourself, your loved ones …

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Thank you, pray for them and their families. Medical staff cheer themselves before going into an ICU ward for Covid-19 coronavirus patients at the Red Cross Hospital in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province. — AFP photo

THAT is my understanding of the necessity for the issue of the movement control order. The message is simple: except in cases of an emergency (medical reason, or food buying, or working on a job that cannot be done at home or online) everyone is to stay at home as much as possible. This means the avoidance of a crowd of people among whom may be found the carriers of Covid-19. The new term is social distancing. In this case, it is not appropriate to say, ‘No man is an island.’ Isolating yourself from the madding crowd is a wise move at this time of the spreading deadly virus. Ensuring yourself to be free from that virus is an act of patriotism. You must not be the virus carrier yourself and kill your loved ones and your friends.

It is from this angle that everyone should view the order, putting aside individual political affiliations for the time being.

For we are at war; the new enemy is invisible to the naked eye. We are living during extraordinary times and extraordinary measures such as those being taken by the authorities are vital for the survival of the many. These measures must not fail.

Stubborn or stupid?

The emergency measures are easy enough to understand and the whole objective of the exercise is beyond question, yet many people in Malaysia have not fully complied with the order. From sources in KL, obtained by midweek, about 60 per cent of the order had not been observed; so much so that the police in KL were called to politely advise shop owners and stall operators to temporarily tutup kedai for two weeks or until the end of this month.

And, if the non-compliance of such a high percentage remains, the Minister of Defence has warned that the army might be called in to help the police enforce the order in full.

Just do it!

The safest thing is to comply with the order voluntarily. There should be no need for persuasion from the police nor for the army’s reinforcement. Instead, the government should ask for help from the volunteers from the non-governmental organisations for this purpose of persuading people to comply. Or better still, the NGOs themselves should offer their services in explaining the purposes of the order quietly, first to family members, to friends, and to the general public.

Give them all the necessary communication facilities such as airtime on the radio and the TV, and space in the mass print media. Their own gadgets can be used to advantage. Many families have their own chat groups. Each family advises each member of that family in matters of hygiene (wash hands with soap and clean water, check body temperature regularly, eat balanced diet with lots of vitamin C), read good books, exercise, and don’t panic. And don’t forget to pray.

I made a cursory survey of opinions in respect of the order among a handful of traders I have known for years in Kuching. These were the stubborn ones: kolo mee sellers, vendors of green coconuts, a cake maker, and a newspaper vendor. These people carry out their trade inside shop houses or on the kaki lima (in front of shop house). Their main complaint is one of discrimination. They have to stop doing business while the vendors of similar products are allowed to do business inside the malls. That is what they told me. They were asked to stop doing business for two weeks. Their owners insist on their paying the full rents as agreed originally. No one could assure them that they would be compensated for loss of earnings someday. They have heard about big sums of money as a stimulus package being earmarked for the purpose of helping businesses affected by the virus – will any of this largesse trickle down to the small fellow with the wheelbarrow stall? Head shaking. They did not get any assurance from anyone in authority. The only assurance that they get is that they can sell takeaway food (tapau). ‘Big deal!’ they say, sarcastically.

The authorities should have taken on board certain NGOs or business associations to discuss proposals for inclusion in the order. If this was done properly there would not have been any omission from the list of the essential services that are exempted from the order. For instance, the oil palm industry. Fresh fruit bunches (FFB) of the palm must be processed in a mill within 24 hours of the harvesting, else they will spoil. This is an ‘essential service’. Fortunately, this omission has been put right. Thank you.

Fighting blind, without weapons 

The enemy is killing thousands of people in several countries including Malaysia. The virus has claimed precious Malaysian lives, one from Kuching. No more please!

No vaccine has been developed though at least 135 companies are doing research. Scientists are working hard to develop the vaccine, and when it is available many lives will be saved. Meantime, expect the battle against the virus to be protracted. But we will be triumphant in the end if every one of us takes the first few steps voluntarily, beginning at home: fight the enemy by working at home, washing hands regularly, keeping healthy and not giving way to panic.

Guardian angels in white coats

Equally important in this war is the role of each and every one of us laymen. The doctors, the nurses, and the other medical workers are risking their lives in order to save the lives of others. They are overworked; they are exhausted. By isolating yourself in your house and thereby away from the virus or its carriers, you are doing the medical workers a great favour – one less patient for them.

In your isolation at home, pray for them, for their loved ones, and for those around them. They have no time to pray for themselves.

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