Conditional MCO the correct first step to teach Malaysians to adapt
By Zan Azlee
Ever since the federal government decided to open up Malaysia economy (albeit slowly) by calling in effect the conditional movement control order (MCO), there has been a vicious debate where Malaysians have split in half their opinion on whether this is a good move or not.
Of course, the most vocal group is the one that doesn’t support it.
Well, I am going to straight-up be honest and declare that I am in support of the federal government opening up the economy of the country, and I welcome the conditional MCO. Hopefully, it will very rapidly turn into “no more” MCO. I’m sure I’m going to be slaughtered online by Covid-19 pandemic social justice warriors!
Give me a chance and hear me out. My reasoning for wanting the MCO to end fast could just be as legitimate as not wanting it to end so fast. But firstly, let’s be clear and agree that calling for the removal of the MCO should only be done when proper research and study have been done to evaluate and weigh the pros and cons.
When the government announced in March that the whole country was going to be under a semi-lockdown, many people were anxious and nervous, including me. As much as I understood that a deadly virus was spreading, I didn’t know how deadly. We had experienced Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and the likes, but we never had a lockdown.
So obviously, as a person who is self-employed and running my own little boutique media company with a staff of two, my most immediate concern was of work. And I think it was justified because as soon as the MCO was announced, I lost three major projects that were supposed to kick off in March and April.
But then, we also started seeing how the virus was just infecting everyone (and killing many too) at such a terrifying rate. So I was convinced that the MCO was needed and we would just have to learn to adapt our lives to the situation. I’m lucky that I am also a university lecturer and education seemed to be one industry that didn’t shut down thanks to Internet technology.
As the MCO continued and even extended, we slowly saw the numbers and statistics on infections improve. The efforts in “flattening the curve” seemed to be working. Great! The decision to enforce the MCO seems to be a success in our country’s handling of the pandemic. We managed to control it as best as we could. At least better than countries in Europe and America, thank god.
And so came the decision to relax the MCO. Aside from half of the public opposing it, several state governments were also against it. I think that it is fine for these people to oppose it if the research and data showed that conditional MCO is a premature move. However, there are many factors to consider other than just wanting to eliminate Covid-19.
The economy is one major factor. How many people have lost income and lost jobs because of the MCO? A lot. Businesses have suffered and are closing down. The government is losing money, and if the government is losing money, like it or not (and I’m sure many people think that the politicians are just afraid of not having money), Malaysians will be the ones who suffer.
Many people are lucky and are in situations where they can take the MCO as a break to rest and spend time with the family. Maybe they have more secure jobs and have income levels that allow them to have a safe buffer to wait out the lockdown. But many also do not have that luxury and have to rely on help coming their way during this MCO.
For Malaysians who are used to living a sheltered life, do realise that there are many Malaysians who are not as lucky. Many are self-employed, have low paying jobs or are daily wage earners. They are also living hand to mouth. These people need to be considered and thought about. How long can they remain reliant on assistance and handouts?
We also need to consider and understand that the virus will never disappear, at least in the near future. Does that mean we will have to be under lockdown for six months, a year or even several years? That would be unrealistic. In my mind, the image that is conjured up would be like scenes from the zombie apocalypse TV series “The Walking Dead”.
So we need to continue with our lives but also learn to change our lifestyle, hence the constant reminder of the “new normal”. We need to understand the importance of social distancing and keeping good hygiene practises like washing our hands properly and keeping our clothes clean. Our usual business will be a different kind of “usual” now.
The world continues to have epidemics, pandemics and outbreaks. But we learn to manage them and continue to live as normal as we can. Let us take dengue as an example. It’s a big problem and many Malaysians have died and continue to die from it. However, we do our best, and we adapt by keeping our homes clean and prevent dengue mosquitoes from breeding by removing stagnant water. We control dengue rather than let dengue control us.
I’m not saying that we immediately end the MCO and open the country up fully. Doing it slowly is the right move, and maybe the conditional MCO is the correct first step in getting there.
With that being said, we Malaysians need to play our part too. We need to realise that we have to change our lifestyle. Take social distancing seriously and practice better cleanliness and hygiene than usual. Slowly, we must control it rather than let it control us.
[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]
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