Dicing with danger


  • On The Beat
  • Sunday, 12 Jul 2020

MANY of us have become complacent since the movement control order (MCO) was relaxed. Confession time: I’m one of them.

I’ve noticed that registration logs at many public places including restaurants, have now become indecipherable. I doubt the names and phone numbers are even authentic.

The entries on these logs now look like mere adherence to authorities, in case their officers come around for inspection. To be fair, it’s hardly possible to ascertain the accuracy of every entry.

If you use your phone to scan the barcode, the guard, who checks your body temperature, is barely diligent to see if you’ve filled in your details.

The guards, being mostly foreigners, are also reluctant to antagonise Malaysians. Why would they want unnecessary flak anyway?

Last week, I went up to Penang, and at one coffee shop on Gurney Drive, I saw 10 people sharing a table.

Social distancing looks like a practice consigned to the past, at least at this coffeeshop.

In many public places, crowds have swelled again, which is good and bad. Good because businesses need to operate to make up for the massive losses during the MCO.

Also, as Covid-19 daily cases drop, it has lulled many of us into a false sense of security where we’re believing the New Normal is returning to the “old” normal, meaning things are as it used to be, like at the start of the year.

The Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, has rightly pointed out that the people of Selangor must continue adhering to the conditional MCO’s regulations and standard operating procedures (SOPs) to stop the spread of Covid-19.

He also reminded the public to continue being cautious under the “new normal”, only leaving home when absolutely necessary, and not congregating in large groups, like at open houses during the month of Syawal, or attending weddings. He also stressed the need to follow social distancing rules at all times.

“To all Muslims, for this year, please celebrate Aidilfitri only with immediate family members and keep it simple, without needing to return to the kampung,” Sultan Sharafuddin said.

He has expressed concern for the safety of Selangorians from the start of the pandemic in Malaysia and has diligently monitored and kept abreast of data and statistics on the pandemic.

Many of us seem to think the increasing positive cases in the United States, which has surpassed three million, is because Americans are apathetic, like their foolish and stubborn president Donald Trump, who still refuses to wear a face mask.

We’d like to think this won’t happen to Malaysians, and I’ve heard enough racist remarks about Caucasians and their health habits, or lack of.

In England, Britons have jam packed pubs again, with near body contact in most situations.

After months of lockdown, partial or full, not many people want to talk about another round of movement restrictions because we’ve all suffered enough.

Many businesses have gone under and jobs have been lost, and nearly all wage earners have had their income trimmed.

But we must not lose sight of how a vaccine has yet to prevail over this insidious virus because there’s the very real danger of it returning for more blood, and Malaysia won’t be spared if we let our old habits return.

Last week, Australia’s second-largest city had a second lockdown in response to a spike in new coronavirus infections.

Melbourne’s five million residents have been barred from leaving home for six weeks, except for essentials or extraordinary reasons.

The police said they were setting up a “ring of steel” around the city, with “checkpoints anytime and anywhere” to enforce measures.

Borders between Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital, and neighbouring states closed last Tuesday.

Victoria State Premier Daniel Andrews announced the Melbourne lockdown after the state saw 191 new infections, its highest daily number since the pandemic began.

It doesn’t make for comfortable reading because Melbourne is home to many Malaysians.

In Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post reported 28 new local cases over the weekend, including 10 with unknown sources of infection, shocking a city getting used to the continued relaxation of social distancing rules, including a dramatic easing of restrictions more than two weeks ago.

Health experts have said that insufficient testing and lax surveillance of those exempted from quarantine are behind the new wave of infections.

Describing the current run of cases as the city’s third wave of contagion, health officials announced on Tuesday evening a basket of revised measures to counter the deteriorating situation.

One of the core clusters of the latest upsurge centres on a care home for the elderly, a service sector Hong Kong has succeeded in protecting over the past five months of the health crisis, when many parts of the world struggled.

Our elder citizens remain most susceptible to the killer disease, so it’s essential that SOPs are properly enforced, especially in places of worship and at religious gatherings.

Simple observation reveals that it’s older people who are likely to attend such gatherings, so we must not let our guard down at all costs.

We can no longer have a compromising and tolerant attitude simply because these gatherings are religious in nature.

In China, AFP reported that it recorded its highest daily number of new coronavirus cases in months last Sunday, triggering fears of a second wave of infections.

The report said the fresh attacks gave a bleak insight into the difficulties the world will face in conquering Covid-19, just when many European countries prepare to welcome visitors from around the continent.

“Adding to the concern, Italy is fighting new outbreaks of its own, Iran and India have reported worrying increases in deaths and infections and the pandemic is gathering pace in Latin America.”

Malaysia can’t remain closed forever. We have done a tremendous job and have every reason to be proud of our success in combating this deadly disease.

I don’t think we can dispute the steady hand of Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and that of the Health Ministry director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah and his team, but let’s not waste all our efforts.

Let’s be ready. We don’t want to face a fresh wave of infections because it has already happened in other countries, which have even higher health standards than us. So why tempt fate?

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Wong  Chun Wai

Wong Chun Wai

Wong Chun Wai began his career as a journalist in Penang, and has served The Star for over 35 years in various capacities and roles. He is now group editorial and corporate affairs adviser to the group, after having served as group managing director/chief executive officer. On The Beat made its debut on Feb 23 1997 and Chun Wai has penned the column weekly without a break, except for the occasional press holiday when the paper was not published. In May 2011, a compilation of selected articles of On The Beat was published as a book and launched in conjunction with his 50th birthday. Chun Wai also comments on current issues in The Star.

   

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