The challenging yet strangely rewarding MCO

pic by ARIF KARTONO

EXPERTS remind us there is no turning back to old decadent ways.

We have survived one month of the Movement Control Order (MCO). And what blessings have come to our shores. The world is becoming a beautiful place, once more. Pollution levels have gone down.

The turtles are coming back to beaches to lay eggs. Rivers are clearing up.

If one month of lockdown or restricted order can do this, imagine what another month or so will do.

We have learned that life after MCO and Covid-19 may be possible, meaningful and blissful under social distancing.

And yet, when these challenging yet strangely rewarding times are over, will we revert to our self-destructive mode?

For it was chaos we were heading for. Climate change. Pollution. Lack of respect for nature. Uncaring societies. Over consumption. Wastage.

Surely, the old way of living and doing business is no longer desirable. Will we be able to sustain a new way of life — one that is healthier, more technologically advanced digitally and gentler on the earth? Economically viable and less dependent on oil and gas?

There will surely be disruptions and adjustments. For our senior citizens, they must still stay at home, so we must aim to make homes for our elderly comfortable and self-sufficient.

It may be better for those in the age bracket of 55-65 years old, who are still working to continue working from home. The same goes to those who are asthmatic or have heart problems. Perhaps those with severe chronic health issues can take the medical board out route under Socso (Social Security Organisation) and retire to stay at home.

However, the younger Gen Y, Gen Z and millennials can start going back to work, university and school. They are less likely to succumb to this infection. Experts concur this is a possible post-MCO back-to-work or school scenario.

Virologist Prof Dr Sazaly Abu Bakar correctly points out: “All entities, private and government, must establish workplace infection mitigation plans. Clearly outlined and communicated administrative policies and guidelines, SOPs (standard operating procedures), provisions for adequate relevant PPE (personal protective equipment) onsite and workplace engineering design to reduce disease transmission.”

Exit Strategy

All over the world, discussions begin to shift from lockdown to exit from the pandemic. Yet, how do we go about this without a vaccine in sight for at least a year.

How do schools operate? Businesses? How do we protect the elderly at home, and those who are still working Invariably, when we lift the MCO, the virus will find its way into the communities. How do we spot and contain this? Or do we let the communities slowly build up immunities against the virus before vaccines and cure are made available?

Prof Datuk Dr Awang Bulgiba said: “We need to work on SOPs and a sentinel surveillance and analysis system to warn us of any potential surge in cases. For the long term, we need to work on a comprehensive pandemic preparedness plan which connects the health, academic, lab and business sectors, as well as step up our research into zoonotic diseases and the role of the environment in these.”

In reflection, the epidemiologist stressed: “Covid-19 will likely not be the last epidemic or pandemic that the world will face in the coming years. We need to take a serious look at how the climate is changing to see if this has a role in the epidemics that have occurred in the last 30 years.”

For Good Measure

There are many possible ways to ensure we stay vigilant post-MCO. Other measures to avoid a possible recurrence can include:

  1. Schools to inculcate behaviour change towards cleaner and responsible self cleaning and healthy living, including regular group exercise.
  2. Education to incorporate creative and fun e-learning.
  3. Ring-fencing SOPs for older citizens.
  4. Air travel protocol overhaul.
  5. The ecosystem must provide for robust online e-commerce.
  6. Travelling interstate protocol to be established.
  7. Events restrictions in place.
  8. New SOPs for wet and dry markets (“pasar malam”, “pasar tani”), hawker centres (which need a total upgrade in cleanliness, fair- ness to workers and price increase to accommodate better experience), playgrounds and theme parks.
  9. Focus on services that matter — healthcare, cleaners, postal, etc.
  10. Small group open air meetings.
  11. Keeping track of our daily contacts will be another new normal to track any potential outbreak.
  12. Home-cooking is healthy. Families are encouraged to cook and have at least one meal a day together. Exercising must be taken seriously.

Perhaps the most reassuring take comes from artificial intelligence and bioinformatics expert Ahmad Fauzi Ali who said:

“A new hope must emerge out of the new normal. A world where we take heed of the lessons learned and reflect seriously on how we will prepare ourselves for our future generations.

“We are demonstrating the best in us in moving to overcome the pandemic threat to our nation, but will we now be able to deal with the side effects of economic downturn and social distancing.

How will our children grow up in this new world? How may we rebuild our community, our economies, our country to emerge stronger, more resilient and well prepared for the next round of things to come? Or will we just resign ourselves to normality and slowly wither away.

“Post-Covid-19, organisations need to be put in place to address this new world. Think tanks need to be put together. New policies need to be drawn up. Investments designing new organisational processes and guidelines to meet the new future will have to be made.”

Let’s crush that curve first. Do whatever it takes to do this right. Stay home till June, if necessary.

There are no halfway measures nor this is the time for celebration. The countries that manage to defeat the coronavirus earliest will have a head start on repairing the economy.

When we leave our homes post-MCO, we cannot attempt to walk away from the pandemic to go back to where we were. The world deserves better. Humanity needs to evolve. This is our chance, perhaps our last wake-up call.

Let’s do it right.

Ninot Aziz
Rawang, Selangor


The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the newspaper’s owners and editorial board.