Every life matters

What we Malaysians want is for our govt to be bold in doing the right thing for us and our loved ones


AS A fellow citizen, I am writing on behalf of all Malaysians, out of sheer distress and frustration. I am bewildered by the flippancy of how the Movement Control Order (MCO) 2.0 is being mandated by the government, ministries, elected officials and authorities.

The state of emergency, the first in 50 years, was declared by our Yang di-Pertuan Agong, a day after our prime minister introduced new coronavirus restrictions across much of the country and issued a warning that the health system was at “breaking point”.

On that day — Jan 11, 2021— Malaysia recorded 2,226 new local Covid-19 cases and four deaths.

The number of cases and the death rate have also increased. Some of those who have lost their lives were younger men and women without known chronic diseases. To think that these men and women were not mere statistics but were a father, mother, brother, sister, son or daughter is heart-wrenching.

Unlike the first MCO when almost all businesses were on strict lockdown, this time around, the government decided to “save the economy” by allowing essential businesses to operate with reduced manpower.

On the contrary, this move — instead of saving the situation — has brought about a detrimental and adverse impact, simply because essential businesses seem to be the main contributors to the rising Covid-19 cases or hotspots for transmissions.

On the other hand, small and medium businesses that mostly fall under the non-essential category are struggling to stay afloat with every passing day under MCO 2.0.

Despite the rising number of cases and deaths, the people and authorities are becoming complacent instead of being in a crisis mode like we were during last year’s lockdown.

I am concerned that our people have been lulled into a sense of false safety or even worse, complacency. The people are confused that the government declared a state of emergency, but did not follow through with the right action of imposing a total lockdown.

I personally believe that the main reason for the people’s complacency is the lack of communication, especially on the severity of the situation.

Considering that people in general have short memory span, such a consistent communication plan will keep us alert and focused on observing preventative measures, such as the washing of hands, sanitising touchpoints, wearing masks and practising social distancing, even though vaccines may soon be available.

I am deeply concerned that our people will perish, and our nation will stumble for the lack of critical knowledge, shared information and targeted communication.

Our hospitals are already bursting at the seams with patients, and our intensive care units are filling up fast with critically ill Covid-19 patients.

A consistent communication plan will keep us alert and focused on observing preventative measures (Pic: Muhd Amin Naharul/TMR)

While turning to private hospitals for help is an option, it is akin to opening the floodgates to greater transmission risks and denying those who are critically ill with chronic diseases from receiving medical care that is due to them.

Yes, it has come to a point where all of us are now “frontliners”, and it is only with our combined and concerted all-out efforts that we can flatten the curve.

And for us, the people, to make this effort, the government and ministries have to launch an aggressive communication initiative to keep reminding us of the preventative standard operating procedures (SOPs) we must strictly observe.

This initiative in the form of community messages to stay safe by observing strict SOPs has to be regularly rolled out across all social media platforms, news channels, government offices, public places and if possible, every point of contact.

In fact, as more and more of us rely on delivery services, apps and social media, they should be called upon to drive home such communication and community messages.

It was meaningful and memorable that hashtags such as #kitajagakita #dudukrumah #stayhomestaysafe and reminders from the government that united our nation of preventative actions to be taken motivated all Malaysians to do our part to flatten the curve during the first MCO.

I believe that a revival of systematic communication from the government will serve the people well in keeping them alert and ever vigilant in these crucial days lead- ing up to vaccination.

While we are hopeful about the imminent arrival of vaccines, I foresee initial hiccups in regulatory processes and hesitations in people that may have to be overcome as the immunisation campaign gradually ramps up.

All these will take time, but the Covid-19 virus is no respecter of time or persons.

If we become complacent in our efforts, the Covid-19 infections will accelerate and the situation in Malaysia will get devastatingly worse, not only to the people, but also to the economy.

Even as we are grappling with the devastating impact the pandemic and lockdowns are having on our people, their livelihood and the economy, I hope we are not losing sight of a gathering storm that is building in the background — our children and their education.

School closures and social isolation are affecting our children and a question we need to ask ourselves is, how we as parents or teachers are going to help students recover and stay on track, knowing that their little lives may continue to be disrupted by the pandemic.

My fear is that this is going to cost too much in human lives if our cases keep surging at this rate.

Therefore, I urge the government to view the task of flattening the pandemic curve as a “war effort”.

As our Governing Warriors, it is time to take aggressive measures. I appeal to you to be fearless in imposing a total lockdown of the states in Malaysia where the cases keep surging, including essential sectors and businesses, except for food, medical and basic necessities. This is the right thing to do, as delaying the inevitable means allowing conditions to deteriorate to severe stages.

As the system becomes overwhelmed and vulnerable, front-liners will become tired and less reliable as there are large numbers of infected people admitted for medical care. It will create an adverse chain reaction and capacity is clearly going to be affected. We as a nation don’t want that!

What we Malaysians want is for our government to be bold in doing the right thing for us and our loved ones.

  • Datuk M Murly, Penang.
  • The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the newspaper’s owners and editorial board.