This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly on March 23, 2020 - March 29, 2020
The two-week Movement Control Order (MCO) issued by the government last Monday has yet to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the country, but it has certainly brought out the best and worst in Malaysians.
According to Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, only 60% of the public obeyed the MCO on Wednesday, the first day the order took effect.
Stubborn and ignorant people are defying the MCO, not only making life difficult for medical personnel, but also endangering their family members and loved ones.
Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has warned that if the MCO does not succeed, it could be extended beyond March 31.
Despite being repeatedly advised to stay calm and not to hoard goods as there is enough for everyone, many are still buying more so-called essential items than they really need. Even worse are the profiteers cashing in on human misery.
The greater nightmare is not the virus itself but the panic buying and reckless selfishness of people that make it harder to tackle the pandemic.
To be fair though, the government’s announcement of the MCO on March 16 lacked clarity on quite a number of issues. For instance, the uncertainty over inter-state movement resulted in a fiasco as masses gathered at police stations for letters authorising travel, thus defeating the objective of social distancing, as did the hordes that headed back to their hometowns to spend the two-week lockdown period.
On top of that, the federal government’s first special meeting on Covid-19 was convened without the menteris besar and chief ministers of opposition states, raising questions as to whether Malaysians are truly being prioritised.
Fortunately, other than healthcare workers, good Samaritans have come to the fore to offer goods and provide help and support for the elderly, marginalised and those who are struggling and isolated.
Flattening the curve of Covid-19 infection has become a dystopian warfare which we cannot afford to lose, for the consequences will be dire in the form of lives lost and economic impact.
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