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 The streets now have fewer vehicles except those that are involved in essential services. - NSTP/MOHAMAD SHAHRIL BADRI SAALI
The streets now have fewer vehicles except those that are involved in essential services. - NSTP/MOHAMAD SHAHRIL BADRI SAALI

IT is an unprecedented time. The streets now have fewer vehicles except those that are involved in essential services.


Offices and malls are empty as Malaysians stay home, adhering to the Movement Control Order (MCO) issued by the government.

One thing that’s obvious about this is that families come together in a difficult circumstance as they isolate themselves from the threat of the contagion. Maybe something good comes from something that’s bad — we get to share quality time with family members.

But what’s not good is that many disobey the MCO. They are either not considering the seriousness of the infectious disease or they are just plain ignorant. Both attitudes do not play well with the situation we’re facing.

Besides the balik kampung mentality, we ignore social distancing when we stockpile essential items from supermarkets or rush to the airports and transport terminals, believing that we can get away from the outbreak.

Times are tough now and the next one week is still uncertain if the number of infections keeps on rising. Touch wood, I’d say. We have to be responsible in coming together as we’re all in this together — we need to break the chain of transmission. We need to help the authorities to help ourselves, especially by staying away from public places.

“Flatten the curve,” tweeted a doctor, who believes it is the rule of thumb — the first thing that we should all be aware of. In epidemiology, the idea of slowing a virus’ spread so that fewer people need to seek treatment at any given time is known as “flattening the curve”. It explains why so many countries have social distancing guidelines, including making citizens stay home.

A more drastic action will be a total lockdown that sees public places emptied and evacuated. Enforcers — soldiers and policemen — will monitor the streets 24/7 and force citizens to stay put in their homes.

The faster the infection curve rises, the quicker the local healthcare system gets overloaded, writes Brandon Spektor in He says as evident in Italy, more and more new patients may be forced to go without ICU beds, and more and more hospitals may run out of the basic supplies they need to respond to the outbreak.

A flatter curve, on the other hand, assumes the same number of people ultimately get infected, but over a longer period of time. A slower infection rate means a less stressed healthcare system, fewer hospital visits on any given day and fewer sick people being turned away.

Since we are now helpless, we need to help the authorities in flattening the curve. Like the prime minister said repeatedly in his nationwide address: “Stay home and protect yourself and your family!”

We must be thankful to those who are doing their job 24/7 in essential public services, including the doctors and nurses — they have our earnest respect and gratitude in every way.

Read a book or glue yourselves to the TV or smartphone for updates from the authorities. Look for content from credible sources. Don’t always believe what you read on social media. And if you’re into watching films, watch the 2011 movie “Contagion”, that eerily shares a similarity with the pandemic that we’re trapped in. Watch it and understand the threat the pandemic poses to human lives worldwide.

C’est la vie.

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