Paying a heavy price for breaking rules

  • Colours of China
  • Monday, 23 Mar 2020

Blocked in: A pile of shared bicycles being set up as a makeshift barrier beside a temperature checking station at the entrance of a residential community in Wuhan during the Covid-19 outbreak. — AFP

Flouting quarantine rules has its consequences.

VIDEO clips and pictures of people crowding the malls, bus terminals, food stalls and police stations back home despite the movement control order (MCO) are making Malaysians in China worried.

To make things worse, most of them were not wearing face masks.

Many of us here went through a distressing period when the Covid-19 outbreak was at its peak.

We know how easy and fast the virus could spread. Social distancing is the only way to cut off its chances of finding new hosts and multiply.China has been praised for its control and preventive measures in curbing the deadly pneumonia virus, and this came with a series of strict orders and stern actions against the violators.

Recently, Beijing Exit and Entry Administration Bureau revoked the residence permit of an Australian Chinese woman who did not adhere to the quarantine. She was ordered to leave the country upon completing her quarantine period.

The woman, surnamed Liang, went out jogging without a mask on March 15, defying a home quarantine order. She had just arrived in the Chinese capital the day before.

When a community committee member persuaded her to go home, she argued with him and then shouted for help, claiming someone was harassing her. Police were called in and gave her a warning.

The 47-year-old has been sacked by her company Bayer, a German chemical and pharmaceutical firm, last Tuesday.

Another woman has been under investigation after she hid her health condition.

The Covid-19 patient, a Chinese surnamed Li who lives in the United States, flew to Beijing with her husband and son on March 13.

In the United States, she was already suffering from coronavirus-like symptoms including cough and fever, and went to see a doctor several times.

She travelled from her home in Massachusetts to Los Angeles to board an Air China flight to Beijing.

Before her departure, the 37-year-old took anti-fever medicine to suppress her body heat and two hours before landing, she informed the cabin crew she might have been infected with the virus.

Her selfish behaviour brought the contagion risk to others. Beijing quarantined 59 passengers on board who came into close contact with Li.It was speculated that Li took the risk to fly to China because treatment for the disease was still free at the time of her travel.

But the Chinese government had just announced that free treatment for all patients had stopped.

When Li had to pay for her medical fees, she decided to complain via social media but it triggered a public outcry, condemning her for putting others at risk.

They also accused her of being shameless for asking for free treatment when she did not pay a cent of tax.

It was also reported that the police have arrested dozens of others who violated the control order and ignored Covid-19 rules including refusing to wear face masks in public places.

Sometimes, we need a strict government for things to work.

Perhaps punishing those who break the MCO, making it mandatory for all to wear a face mask in public areas or getting patients to pay for their treatments could help stop people from venturing outside.

A man in Hunan who recovered revealed that his medical and two-week hospitalisation costs came up to over 50,000 yuan (RM31,265).

He said the medical fees of his friend who was warded at the Intensive Care Unit for a week and utilised the Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) machine, went up to several hundred thousand yuan. The fees were absorbed by the government.

To curb the outbreak, the Chinese government has so far forked out a special fund of 66.53 billion yuan (RM41.6bil) for the building of temporary hospitals and purchase of medical equipment as well as on control and preventive measures.

The amount was equivalent to some 4% of the total public healthcare budget for 2019.

Malaysia does not have such a strong financial capability, manpower and community support system.Even so, China felt the pain. Several provinces and cities including Beijing and Shanghai no longer provide free treatments for foreigners.

And every international traveller who is placed under quarantine at designated centres or hotels have to pay for food and accommodation.

This is not a holiday, the country is at war fighting an invisible enemy, which has a super infectious power. There may be a high recovery rate but we do not know if the treatment would leave behind any side effect.

Twenty years have passed since the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak, and those who recovered are now suffering from side effects such as chronic bone disorder and joint pain brought on by steroids used in the treatments.The Chinese have been very cooperative with their government, they strongly believed that staying home was their only contribution to the country in that crucial period.

If 1.3 billion people could do it, you can too.

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