Wednesday, June 23

The year of living dangerously – our very own annus horribilis


THE year 2020 will go down in everyone’s personal annals as a year likened to what in 1992 Queen Elizabeth called her ‘annus horribilis’ (Latin for a year of disaster or misfortune). On top of that it was also a year when all of us faced uncertainties and indeed potential death in our midst; all around us an unseen enemy unlike any the world had ever encountered before. It was a surreal year with no end in sight.

All of us, officially on March 18, 2020, entered a danger zone, not unlike a nuclear fallout radioactive region, except this region encompassed the entire world as we know it. The arrival of the coronavirus, Covid-19, meant that not a single soul was immune from its potentially deadly contact leading to possible death, if not some long term dreaded ill effect. The only light that has emerged in recent weeks has been the discovery of vaccines, which in the months ahead will be used hopefully to counter its further spread and lessen its dangerous and potentially deadly impact.

But the use of the vaccines will take time.

The year 2020 was a year fraught with many personal and public lows and more grief and sadness than any uplifting moments of joy or salutation.

The year started badly with the dire news of the rapid spread of the Covid-19 virus throughout the world, first reported from Wuhan in China on Dec 31, 2019 and identified on Jan 7, 2020.

Malaysia reported its first case on Feb 4, 2020 when a 41-year-old man returned from Singapore. By Jan 7, 2021, Malaysia’s official statistics of Covid-19 cases numbered 125,438 of which 102,723 have recovered. There have been 521 deaths. Of much concern has been the fact that in the past week or so, new daily cases have even exceeded 3,000, which is an uptrend.

So far, Sarawak has been keeping its new infection figures among the lowest in the nation, and SOPs continue to be tightened and state authorities appear to have some control over the spread statewide.

Much has been said, written and conveyed, and everyone knows exactly what they have to do on a personal basis in order to keep the spread of the virus under strict control; it’s at times of lapses and whenever we let down our defenses that the vicious virus will be able to continue its spread throughout our community.

Many of us has had a first-hand encounter with the virus, directly through family members, loved ones, friends, and acquaintances, who have either perished directly due to Covid-19, or indirectly as a consequence of being restricted by whatever means leading to their demise.

Personally I have had a number of close family members and friends who passed away during these last 12 months, all when we were under some form of MCO – thus depriving me and my family of the opportunity to attend their wakes and funeral services. This has been very hard to take and it meant that we were not able to say our last and final goodbyes, and pay our final respects. This has weighed heavily on our hearts.

The extended periods of MCOs also meant very restricted movements between homes of family and loved ones – what I missed most were the regular weekend visits to my grandson (grandchildren since October 2020) and watching them grow and enjoying playing with them both. This has mostly been curtailed and dwindled to rare infrequent calls, for both our mutual benefit. Thank God for WhatsApp video-chats and Zoom meetings!

I also pity the many businesses, big and small, that have suffered terrible losses the past 12 months; and things do not look much brighter anytime soon. It was reported the other day that officially some 20 per cent of coffee shops have closed down – however, I believe the real statistics are a lot higher. Those who remain are under much pressure as their regular business overall has shrunk by between 40 and 80 per cent. Although some landlords have been sympathetic enough to reduce or forgo rents for a number of months, many have not been as kind.

The bigger businesses have either adapted to new working hours, asked staff to work fewer days or take temporary pay cuts, or have downscaled their operations one way or another in order to survive. This looks like it will continue for some time to come.

Even government departments are changing their work schedules due to various SOPs and the work of every single member of the civil service has been forced to be altered and modified to suit current circumstances. Some delays and hiccups are sure to be encountered due to such trying times. Members of the public have been urged to practise patience and understanding when it comes to dealing with the civil service during this period.

I know for a fact that the State Disaster Management Committee has been working diligently and steadfastly round the clock; and together with all our front-liners in all the various fields – medical, police and field force, etc have performed to the very best of their ability – and that they will continue to do so. The recent statement emanating from the joint leadership of the DCM in charge Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas and Minister of Local Government and Housing Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian that they will henceforth reveal the names and locations of where the latest infections have taken place shows that they are responsive to public feedback and are both speedy and efficient in their much under-appreciated task at hand. I say kudos and salutations to them both and the entire team.

I long for the day and the times which, before March 18, 2020, we had all taken so much for granted, to be back again when we could simply pick up the phone, or send a text or voicemail to a friend, or group of friends, to turn up for a round of drinks or just for a chitchat at a coffee shop, and they’d all be there at that chosen spot, gathering together, under the moon and stars, happily chatting away, with satay and beer or kopi-o and laksa.

The world as we knew it then has changed forever. We can only hope and pray that we can have it back as soon as possible – will it be after most of us have been vaccinated (and who knows when that’d be and how long that would take?) or would it be another two or three years down the road – if ever?

Only God knows. Amen.


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