IF THE start of the Covid-19 pandemic last year saw Malaysians apprehensive but hopeful, the same cannot be said about the latest round of movement restrictions this year.
There was no more talk of Dalgona coffees, the best ways to bake banana bread or trying out a new hobby as the country began a new lockdown on June 1.
In March 2020, we met the pandemic with not just optimism but with heart, knowing that we would do whatever it took to weather this worldwide problem.
Even as most economic sectors were forced to close and job losses increased during this traumatic period, we heard inspiring stories of people stepping up to help others in need — from donating food and essentials to looking after elderly neighbours who were separated from their loved ones.
We supported the tireless dedication of our medical and non-medical frontliners with contributions of medical supplies and even meals to officers manning roadblocks.
More importantly, we supported them by limiting our travels and staying indoors to break the chain of infection.
It all paid off and we were definitely quite pleased with ourselves when cases dropped down to nearly zero, while other countries in the region, and what was thought of as developed countries, were seeing soaring cases and busy holding rallies against government-imposed restrictions.
But more than a year later, the situation is reversed — Covid-19 cases are at an all-time high and the public healthcare system is overwhelmingly burdened.
The latest figures show that almost 900 individuals are receiving treatment at intensive care units (ICU).
Although more ICU beds for Covid-19 patients have been added, the rate of use of ICU beds is still at a level above 100%, revealed Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah.
We saw the signs — massive crowds at bazaars, in-person gatherings as well as increased clusters caused by interstate travel.
Meanwhile at workplaces, operations resumed at almost full capacity.
Between April 1 and May 26,287 workplace clusters involving 17,087 cases were recorded, with 233 clusters involving 16,785 cases still active.
A total of 115 workplace clusters with 5,392 cases were reported between May 12 and 26, of which 62 involved the manufacturing sector.
Where at the time the government stressed that it was not a lockdown –- using the term “movement control order” instead –- that was not the case this time around as Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced a “lockdown” of most economic sectors and all social sectors throughout the country for two weeks.
Tighter restrictions before this lockdown — such as that which mandates more employees work from home and shorter business operating hours — had barely made a dent in daily cases that were skyrocketing.
There is a deeper sense of anxiety given the intensity of the wave, the death toll and the prolonged nature of the pandemic.
At this point, most of us almost certainly know someone who has contracted Covid-19 or has succumbed to the disease.
“It has become harder to remain optimistic when everything seems to be going wrong. Just to keep going has become truly hard work, ” a friend said to me recently.
She lamented how the pandemic has become characterised by repetition.
“I drive the same route from home to work, and back again, the weekends are reserved for a quick trip to stock up on groceries, with very little to look forward to the rest of the time, ” she said.
The monotony of the past 18 months is hard to process, and one that I am sure is a sentiment shared by many.
There are, however, plenty of ways to break up our daily routine, be it with virtual visits to world-famous museums or researching future travel destinations that gives us something to look forward to.
I believe Malaysians have always been a resilient lot and we can find ways to weather the coming months.
Let us learn from our mistakes, or risk being a cautionary tale. We did it once and we can do it again.
While we wait patiently for our first vaccine dose, we must rally together now and commit to this round of lockdown so that we can return to a post-coronavirus world sooner rather than later.