DESPITE early signs from China, Japan, Singapore, Philippines and other countries, we took time to act. When we finally acted, our initial response was poorly coordinated. The reticence could be due to lack of focus, clouded by the current state of political uncertainty.
So long as politicians remain obsessed with sustaining political power at any cost, the rakyat will pay a heavy price for it. While the tabligh congregation has been blamed for the spike in the novel coronavirus infection in Malaysia, it was, nevertheless, an eye-opener.
Had it not been for the resulting spike, the virus spread would have gone unchecked as public places including schools, universities, parks etc. remained open. The policy makers should have seriously thought of nipping-the-problem-in the-bud soon after Wuhan and Singapore.
The nation now pays for its gross misjudgment! The government cannot afford another blunder. We must now adopt the measures introduced in China, Italy and California. Whilst I am no longer privy to the thinking process in the Government, I recall with certainty the security architecture that saw the nation through two-timed insurgencies and the Indonesian communist-inspired confrontation.
The Government does not need to reinvent wheels, it can use the same proven security architecture, with some adaptation, to win this virus war with support from the rakyat. The war against Covid-19 is no longer a public health concern, it has taken a national security twist.
While the Government must continue to ensure every hospital and clinic in the country have enough virus testing-kits, medicines, beds, respirators, doctors, nurses and care givers at all times, it must also approach Covid-19 as a national security issue.
Spare a moment for the doctors, nurses and other firstliners (including policemen manning the road blocks and on patrols) who have been on duty from day one sacrificing time to ensure the safety of all Malaysians. They need to be relieved before they burn out.
It is time for the Government to mobilise the able-bodied retired doctors, nurses and other medical practitioners to join the war against Covid-19. Private clinics and private hospitals must do their national service too. Those who refuse to treat patients with the virus should be hauled up by the authorities.
Life-saving is more important than profit margins. For national sanity, safety and security, the entire nation must be locked down with immediate effect, if people refuse to stay home! Some form of financial stimulus must be given to farmers and pharmacies to expand research and productivity.
The poor and unemployed must be given financial aid. A cash handout of RM1,000 per person would help the jobless once a national lockdown is imposed. Simple things like giving the rakyat a free face mask, on regular and need basis like in some countries, will go a long way in winning the trust of the people. Dispensing hand sanitisers and soap can do wonders.
The writer teaches strategic studies at Universiti Pertahanan Nasional Malaysia
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times