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Members of the public seen wearing face masks at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. amid the coronavirus outbreak. - NSTP/File pic
Members of the public seen wearing face masks at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. amid the coronavirus outbreak. - NSTP/File pic

We are living in very difficult times. Covid-19 is showing us up for what some of us are, one fault at a time.

Look at how some Italian hospitals are treating patients who are really ill with Covid-19. They leave them to die because there aren’t enough ventilators. China allegedly did the same.

Shelves in shops in Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and Hong Kong are regularly out of face masks and sanitisers. Hoarders at work? On Wednesday, two Malaysians were stopped by Indonesian authorities at the Medan International Airport with 12,000 face masks, which they were allegedly trying to smuggle out of the country. How did we come to this?

Time to ask ourselves a serious question: is this the way we want to live?

Let’s begin with the market. Free market capitalists will tell us that if we are after economic progress, we should leave the market alone. Because it has the power to correct itself. We will gladly do so if the market had moral content. The fact is, it doesn’t. Even capitalists of other stripes are beginning to point this out.

Take the case of Covid-19 tests. As far as we can tell, government hospitals and clinics do them throughout the country. Seeing unmet needs, a few private hospitals have moved in by providing Covid-19 tests for a hefty fee. One is even charging RM950 for a test at home.

Profits shouldn’t be made this way. More so, at this very trying and terrible times. The strange thing is the private sector — and this includes private hospitals — is very vocal when it comes to asking for stimulus package for Covid-19.

There is one other thing. Private health service providers know that public hospitals are overwhelmed. Shouldn’t they join in the efforts of public hospitals to help contain Covid-19 that is threatening lives?

The World Health Organisation declared Covid-19 a pandemic on Wednesday. If not before, at least now, the private health sector has the moral responsibility to help the government contain Covid-19. Or has the market rid itself of all moral content?

Businesses operate in a community and as such they must conduct their operations in a socially responsible manner. Absent this, the community will deny them the licence to operate.

Malaysia hasn’t faced anything like this before. In such circumstances, vigilance on the part of the government is all the more necessary. Infections can go undetected, because there aren’t enough clinics around the country for the 32 million people to be tested. People who want to get tested find it hard to do so.

The government must make it easier. Perhaps public clinics should go 24/7 with some help from volunteers. Australia’s wildfires were fought this way with some amount of success. This is the time for the private sector to lend their helping hand. There are also loopholes to be plugged.

How is the Covid-19 related trash collected? Are trash collectors properly geared? Where is the trash disposed of?

In a pandemic such as this, a slip is all that is required to have a domino effect.

All that was needed was a slip by patient one in Wuhan, China. The rest is a global contagion story.


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