By Aznan Mat Piah
The recent announcement that the government is not going into total lockdown during MCO 3.0 beginning on Tuesday (25 May) to curb the spread of COVID-19 virus should be welcome.
Despite some calls by certain sections of society for a total lockdown, the government has decided instead to reduce the mobility and movement of the people and tighten up the rules and the standard operating procedures (SOPs). This involved 80 percent or 750,000 of public sector staff working from home, with only 20 percent required to work in the office. Meanwhile, in the private sector 40 per cent or 6.1 million staff are working from home and 60 per cent working in the office premises.
We are fully aware that there has been a spike in the number of infections that has now breached the 7,000 figures daily. It must a difficult decision for the authorities when the country is faced with the present situation.
The decision not to go for total lockdown as explained by Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is to ensure that the economy will not be much affected as in the MC0 1.0 where the country lost almost RM3 billion per day when the economic sector was closed. He said his concern goes to the small-time business or daily income earners or the small and medium scale entrepreneurs who need to survive during the pandemic. They are the ones who are suffering the most if there is a total lockdown.
How do we ensure that we could control the spread of the virus when there is no total lockdown? Some might question. The answer to the question lies in the fact that there will be strict enforcement of the laws and the SOPs such as limiting inter-district and inter-state travels, and restricting the opening hours of shopping malls and restaurants.
In the case of restaurants there will be strictly no dining-in, only take-aways are permitted, and allowed to open on specific hours from 8 a.m to 8 p.m. And wearing of masks in public places is being made compulsory under the SOPs.
But, the most important answer lies very much on the society or the public. We, as members of the public, should exercise greater discipline or restraint by not going out unnecessarily if we have no urgent business to attend to. In fact, this has been repeatedly stressed by the Prime Minister and also the Senior Minister (Security), Dato’ Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob who represents the National Security Council.
The spike in the number of infection cases had caused hospital staff and the front-liners to worry on their ability to cope given the increase that would put additional pressures and strains on them. As stated by the Director-General of Health, Tan SrI Hisham Abdullah, the exponential increase has caused resources to be overwhelmed when hospitals are running short of beds including facilities in intensive care unit (ICU). Hospitals are now running in full capacity faced with shortage of staff to handle increased cases.
So, the best advice to the people from the Health Director-General is for the people to stay home. Home is the safest place. We should heed the advice. The people have as much the responsibility to impose self-lockdown. If all of us heed the advice, discipline ourselves, and follow the laws and the SOPs strictly, we would be able to bring down the number of infected cases, hopefully in the next two or three weeks.
We might note that in Sweden too there has not been a total lockdown despite an increase in infected cases recently that registered almost 7,000 daily among a population of 10 million. Some restrictions are put in place, otherwise it looks like normal where economic activities still go on, but people are subject to stricter SOPs. The good news is that the people in that country follow the rules strictly and their government trusts the people. We should do the same when we are being entrusted.
Meanwhile, the national COVID-19 immunisation programme is in progress. While it would take some time for the process to complete for the population to be vaccinated, the move has already started, and vaccine centres have been set up across the country to provide vaccines, especially in states which are having an increase in the cases. The public have been urged to register for vaccination.
As citizens, we should realise the importance for the whole population to be vaccinated to check against the spread of the virus and to achieve ‘herd immunity’ among the people. While the media should be congratulated for their effort in generating greater awareness of the immunisation plan, the public must be educated on the benefits of receiving vaccines.
And they must support the immunisation plan. This follows attempts by certain parties to discourage the public, especially in the rural areas, to reject vaccines. Recently, former Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad had openly refuted negative claims made by the anti-vaxx regarding vaccines and for calling the public not to accept vaccination.
Whether it’s total lockdown or partial lockdown a lot depends on us in ensuring that we follow and observe the laws and the SOPs strictly. We should appreciate what the authorities are trying to do to protect our life at the same time to ensure that people will have the means to continue to earn their living.
We need to change our attitude and adjust our life in accordance with the pandemic that we are faced with currently. Never take things for granted and let our guards down. We just need to do our own lockdown or self-lockdown to flatten the curve on the spread of the pandemic. ***
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