It’s time to bite the bullet

  • Nation
  • Saturday, 28 Mar 2020

Words to live by: A hotel lighting up its rooms to send a stay home message during the MCO period in Kuching, Sarawak.

A FRIEND called me yesterday morning to let me know he was on the way to get groceries with his wife.

When I told him that he was directly contravening the movement control order (MCO) – because only the head of the household or one family member is allowed out to get essentials – he grew increasingly agitated and terminated the phone call.

This is the crux of the problem.

The MCO has been in place and with a further two-week extension that will last until April 14.

But incidents of police catching people playing football or going out with friends for supper, show some people think the rules don’t apply to them.

This is as good as assuming they are immune from Covid-19.

This is a dangerous attitude because our rate of infections and deaths keeps increasing.

And the lackadaisical attitude of a segment of the population is not helping.

The public has been told that movement is being restricted and if the situation deteriorates, the MCO will be enhanced to a full lockdown.

Do we want that?

Actually, we may not have a choice because the National Security Council (NSC) is drafting a new standard operating procedure which will be presented today.

This is expected to mean stricter regulations as the MCO enters its second phase.

Just how strict will the new regulations be?

An indication can be gleaned from the curfew-like conditions imposed yesterday on two villages in Kluang, Johor.

Visitors have been barred from entering the villages while residents there are told to stay indoors for the next two weeks.

They will not be allowed to go out even for buying food or groceries.

Instead, necessities for the 3,570 villagers will be provided by the Social Welfare Department.

This “lockdown” has been enforced because 74 people in the area were found to be Covid-19 positive.

All roads leading to and from the villages are cordoned off with the police and army enforcing the enhanced measures.

We have already been told by the Health Ministry that there are four red zones (areas with the highest rate of infections in the country) in the Klang Valley.

In fact, all these four zones have a higher number of positive cases than Kluang.

As of noon yesterday, Lembah Pantai had 208 positive cases.

While it is going to be very difficult to shut down the entire Lembah Pantai area, it is not impossible because China shut down Wuhan, a city of 12 million people – but then again not many countries are as resolute as China.

It is more likely that the enhanced restrictions to be announced by the NSC will target virus hotspots – for example, a neighbourhood or township within Petaling Jaya that has recorded an inordinately high infection rate.

This makes sense because mobile medical bases can then be set up and comprehensive checks carried out by the health authorities.

Medical experts contend that for the virus curve (rate of infections) to flatten, restricted movements should be enforced for a minimum of six weeks.

This has been proven in Wuhan – where the virus first appeared – and the larger Hubei province in China where a complete lockdown for more than two months now has resulted in zero new local cases.

It should be reiterated, that Malaysia is not in a lockdown.

The public is still allowed to buy food, groceries, medicine and other necessities, albeit with certain restrictions.

But an enhanced MCO, just like what was implemented in Kluang, will help the authorities pinpoint and contain the spread of Covid-19.

Make no mistake, we need these tougher measures if we are going to pull through this national crisis.

Residents in the areas where these enhanced security measures are implemented will of course complain, but in extraordinary times like these, civil liberties will have to take a backseat.

The virus can be beaten if we all do our part.

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