By Sakini Mohd Said
KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) – In these difficult times when the world is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and our government is trying its best to bring the situation under control, my friend Eirdyna stands out as a model citizen.
While people were making a beeline to supermarkets and grocery stores last week just before and after the Movement Control Order (MCO) was enforced, she chose to stay at home and make do with whatever ingredients she had in her kitchen.
Eirdyna, a civil servant, believed she did not have to resort to panic buying as Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin himself had assured that there was enough food supply in the market. Furthermore, she wanted to avoid any risk of infection by the virus as the supermarkets and wet markets were thronged with people.
Although supermarkets, grocery stores and wet markets are among the premises allowed to keep their doors open throughout the MCO period from March 18 to 31, individuals have to bear in mind that close contact with others will only expose them to a higher risk of infection.
When she is forced to go out, Eirdyna makes sure she stands at least one metre away from others to minimise the risk of infection.
“When announcing the MCO, our prime minister advised us to avoid going to crowded places. Since it is not a curfew, we can go out to buy essential stuff but it’s best to go to an outlet which is not crowded,” she said.
Last Wednesday, which was day one of MCO, I went to a popular supermarket in the city to do a survey. It was not as packed as it was the previous day. Next, I went to a grocery store, located near my house, which also sells all kinds of vegetables. To my pleasant surprise, its racks were amply stocked with canned sardine, onions and other essential foodstuffs.
So, people, what’s your problem? Why did you put yourself at risk by crowding at supermarkets the day before the MCO was enforced when food supplies were still ample? Didn’t you know your action could hike up the number of COVID-19 positive cases in this country?
MCO is not a curfew. As Muhyiddin explained, the public can patronise markets, supermarkets and grocery stores to buy their daily essentials. Restaurants can operate but only takeaways are permitted. When in public places, people are advised to keep their distance from others and maintain personal hygiene.
Following the prime minister’s MCO announcement last Monday, a huge number of city folks rushed to public transportation hubs to balik kampung! All the major highways were choked with traffic too.
Our prime minister was concerned about this and to avert a possible crisis, he appeared live on television last Wednesday to appeal to the people to “just stay at home”.
In plain, simple language Muhyiddin said: “Just stay at home. Duduklah diam-diam di rumah. Spend time with your children, wife and family members. No need to go anywhere. This way you can prevent the COVID-19 infection from spreading. This is the real reason why the government is enforcing the Movement Control Order.
“Its objective is not to enable you to return to your kampung, attend feasts, go shopping, go to the park or go on a holiday. Its objective is to make you stay at home. Stay at home and protect yourself and your family.”
The prime minister’s concern was understandable. By then, two deaths due to COVID-19 had occurred. What was more, the number of new cases reported daily had climbed to three digits.
I thought Muhyiddin’s message would have opened the people’s eyes to the grim reality of the situation in the country. But I was wrong. Some people still have no qualms about going out “shopping”.
About two hours after Muhyiddin’s address last Wednesday, I decided to drive up to a 24-hour supermarket to take a look at what was happening there. It was packed with shoppers! Of course, I didn’t dare enter the supermarket. As I exited the parking lot, I saw more cars coming in. More cars mean more shoppers crowding at the already congested supermarket.
Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob was quoted as saying last Wednesday that MCO compliance stood at about 60 percent. He said legal action may be taken against those who flout the MCO rules.
In fact, Ismail Sabri, who is also Defence Minister, indicated that the army may be deployed to help enforce the MCO.
Sure enough, the minister announced last Friday that the government would deploy the army to civilian areas beginning Sunday. The army will help the police to monitor the people’s compliance with instructions for them to stay at home.
Everyone has a role to play to bring the disease under control. As long as there are selfish people around, the government and the Ministry of Health will not be able to check the spread of COVID-19.
Have sympathy for the healthcare workers who are working day and night to treat those infected with the virus. While most of us are resting in the safe confines of our homes, they are fighting to save the lives of others, as well as their own.
But they are not complaining even though they are at high risk of contracting the disease and even spreading it to their families.
The authorities have already warned of a tsunami-like third wave of COVID-19 infections if people continue to have an indifferent attitude towards the government’s efforts to control the disease. We surely don’t want this to happen, right?
(This article reflects the views of the writer.)
Translated by Rema Nambiar
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