A lockdown dilemma

Like we have been hearing time and time again, winning this fight is up to us

pic by ARIF KARTONO

“IF THERE is another stay-at-home order, my child and I will have to live on the streets. I will lose my source of income as I just got a job less than a week ago. My savings are gone. Good thing, I still have my faith, but there have been times that I thought about taking my own life.”

A screenshot of this comment by an Internet user, only known as Ai Na, was shared around social media — a response to a recent Health DG’s tweet which many took as a hint that the good old Movement Control Order (MCO) might make a comeback.

Watching Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah’s Covid-19 press conferences on Facebook Live, however, we could see from the comments section that many Malaysians are, in fact, urging the government to impose MCO 2.0.

Minister says with strict SOPs, like physical distancing, body temperature checks and no outdoor activities, schools are considered a safer place for students – Pic by Razak Ghazali

When Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, in his special address on Tuesday, announced that the MCO would not be re-implemented even as cases spiked to an all-time high of 691, many questioned the government’s judgement, while some were angered.

They contested that the nationwide partial lockdown had successfully flattened the country’s Covid-19 curve all the way to single-digit new cases daily and considered the MCO as the only solution to keep errant quarantined individuals at home.

Well, lessons not learnt, it seems…We are still hearing about stubborn, not to mention selfish, individuals with the Health Ministry’s pink bracelet loitering around, while some even took the liberty to dine out. While these are true and valid reasons to reinstate the MCO, we had already experienced it and the negative effects on the country’s economy, as well as the people’s wellbeing.

As for Ai Na, even if her message was not from a real Facebook account, the quote pulled at the heartstrings of many netizens. It might have brought those who thought the return of the MCO would be a good idea, back to the harsh reality.

“Only those who have thousands of ringgit coming in steadily every month, and those who are not their family’s breadwinner, would find the MCO to be fun,” one commented, sarcastically suggesting a revamped Dalgona coffee recipe, which became quite the rave when everyone was stuck at home back in March.

Many people who managed to keep their jobs are barely hanging on, especially now that the moratorium has come to an end. Many were also laid off or are now self-employed.

There had even been claims that some of the government’s financial aid had not reached them.

While we are afraid of being killed by the coronavirus, they are afraid of dying of starvation.

Evidently, calling the shots on any form of a lockdown takes more than a gut feeling. There are millions of lives with different backgrounds and needs that need to be taken into consideration.

On the other hand, Muhyiddin said the government will instead implement the Targeted Enhanced MCO in areas with high numbers of Covid-19 infections.

As of yesterday, Lahad Datu, Tawau, Kunak, Semporna, Alor Setar and Klang were declared as red zones.

At press time, all schools located in areas classified as red zones in Klang district in Selangor, as well as Sandakan, Papar and Tuaran districts in Sabah, will be closed from today until Oct 23.

The Ministry of Education in a statement later yesterday said the closure involved 142 schools in Klang and another 242 schools in the three districts in Sabah.

Seven classes in two schools in Klang had been closed earlier after students and teachers were ordered to undergo home quarantine for being close contacts to Covid-19 patients. The schools, SMK Pendamaran Jaya and SK Taman Sri Andalas, however, remained open to the rest of the students and staff.

This, naturally, caused and outcry among parents and non-parents alike. “Close all schools in the country!” many “shouted” on social media.

There is, of course, always a differing team. In this case, the “opponents” are against school closure.

Their reasons are firstly, parents who need to go out to work would not be able to leave their children safely at home by themselves.

“Easy for you to say if you are a housewife or can work from home,” they said.

Secondly, the same parents, who are pleading for school closure, would later be seen taking their kids out at malls and eating at restaurants anyway.

Deputy Health Minister I Datuk Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali yesterday said with strict standard operating procedures (SOPs), like physical distancing, body temperature checks and no outdoor activities, schools are considered a safer place for students.

However, parents, who disagree and can afford to have their children at home, as well as have access to online learning, do not need to wait for the government to order the schools to close.

Lyana Mansor, who is a science teacher in Johor Baru, is one of the many parents who have opted to keep her children temporarily out of school.

“I just wrote a simple letter to the school, saying that I would rather have my kids at home during this time when the virus is fast spreading.

“It is okay that they do not go to school for the time being,” said the 35-year-old mother.

Lyana had even shared a template of the letter on her Facebook page, which concerned parents can use.

The template reads: “I am not allowing my child to attend school due to the rise of the Covid-19 pandemic. I take full responsibility in ensuring that my child stays at home throughout the duration that he/she is exempted from school.”

Hopefully, if many parents are doing the same, there could be more social distancing at schools for the students who have no choice but to continue to attend their physical classrooms.

We have been in this battle against Covid-19 for almost a year now. We have yet to beat it or find a vaccine for it, but we do have a better understanding of it.

Although there is no MCO, we know that chances of infections are slim if we keep to the SOPs, go outside only if necessary, wear our face masks and practise good hygiene.

Even with schools open, parents have the final say if they want their children to be at home.

Like we have been hearing time and time again, winning this fight is up to us.


Farezza Hanum Rashid is the assistant news editor at The Malaysian Reserve.