NOW this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. — Winston Churchill
It is the same for almost all the governments around the world. The immediate tasks for world leaders are to restrict the transmission of Covid-19 and provide proper treatment for those suffering from the disease.
The battle isn’t won yet. The war against this threat to humanity can only be declared over when we find a vaccine. And it is “when” and not “if”, because we are racing against time. Some 35 companies around the globe are in various stages of developing and testing a vaccine.
Even though there are encouraging signs, it is highly unlikely that we will discover a cure this year. Dr Anthony Fauci, the head of the United States’ National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says it will take between one year and 18 months for a vaccine to be available.
For now, the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on our way of life.
In Malaysia, the second phase of the movement control order (MCO) began on Wednesday and is due to end on April 14. But the signs are already there that the MCO is effective. The first two weeks have seen a slight tapering off in the rate of infections.
Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said that efforts made during the two-week restriction period have resulted in preventing a drastic rise in cases as people have been ordered indoors so as to not continue to spread the virus which has killed 50 Malaysians to date.
This is good news in the fight against Covid-19, but we shouldn’t be lulled into a false sense of security, because the worst may not be over.
Much as the government has given us assurances that the MCO will be lifted on April 15 if the curve flattens (rate of deaths and infections), we should nonetheless be prepared for an extension of the MCO.
Medical experts are of the opinion that these restrictions on our daily lives be continued until the end of April.
If that is the case, Malaysians will have to bear with it. We should stop wallowing in self-pity and be grateful that the best efforts of our medical frontliners and the government’s economic stimulus package have cushioned the effects of the pandemic thus far.
The same though cannot be said for the United States.
The US death toll has exceeded 5,000, surpassing the body count from the Dec 7,1941 Pearl Harbour attack and the Sept 11,2001 terrorist attacks. The number of positive cases are now more than 200,000. This is the biggest “foreign invasion” on US soil in history.
And it is expected to get worse with Dr Fauci estimating that 200,000-plus Americans would lose their lives through Covid-19.
The epicentre of this pandemic is New York. The largest US metropolis has been brought to its knees with medical staff and equipment stretched to breaking point.
Social distancing was implemented on March 16 but that hasn’t stopped New Yorkers from going about their regular routines – buying groceries, jogging, going for walks, etc. Despite the high infection rate and grim outlook, the federal government has not imposed a lockdown, let alone a partial lockdown.
Lockdowns are technically unconstitutional/illegal in the United States and that is why the authorities are unable or unwilling to impose tougher measures like in China, or even Malaysia.
In Malaysia, we are fortunate that our policymakers have taken firm and necessary steps to curtail movement with more stringent guidelines being implemented this week, a crucial strategy in the fight against this unseen enemy.
But as we take to social media and heap praise on our health services, security and other frontline personnel, we should also not overlook other services that are no less essential.
I am referring to the people involved in sanitation, food delivery and transportation services. Where would we be without these unsung heroes?
We don’t have the numbers yet, but there must be a huge increase in household garbage due to 95% of Malaysians staying home.
Yet, the local authorities have maintained the rubbish collection schedule as per normal, despite the severe restriction of people and vehicles, and this says a lot for the dedication of our garbage collectors.
The majority of supermarkets and grocery stores are stocked with enough food to tide us through the MCO period and this is due to transporters who are able to move massive amounts of goods from the ports and collection centres to eventually reach the consumer.
And finally, we should all be thankful for the delivery riders who work non-stop to get us our takeaway meals while we stay indoors.
When the coronavirus is finally defeated and we are dishing out medals to our frontliners, let us not forget these dedicated groups of workers who performed an essential service for all Malaysians.
Brian Martin, executive editor of The Star, would like to come clean. He has vested interest in the proposed assessment rate hike since he’s a resident of Kuala Lumpur.
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