HOW could have centres of higher learning got the Movement Control Order so wrong? MCO means stay put, except for food and pills.
Even these can be delivered to our homes. The more of the 14 days we spend at home, or wherever we found ourselves at when MCO came announced, the better we can contain the Covid-19 virus.
In such times, mobility is a dangerous thing. In such times, too, we can stay put and be mobile in more ways than the one we are used to. Think smartphone.
But the baffling thing is, very learned people residing in ivory towers missed the MCO by a mile. They sent a mass of people to congested convergence: train stations and bus stations and other what have you. And from there, as an exodus of erudite students in Covid-19-friendly vehicles, to kampung and villages to the arms of their dear ones. From Kuala Lumpur to Kangar and every place in between. Perhaps even from Shah Alam to Sarikei. If they were free from Covid-19 before, they may not be now.
Did not these great minds know that we are in a national crisis mode? Or did they have too little time to think between the announcement and the deadline? Some will call in aid the option they gave students to stay put in their defence. But a stay-put option sends homesick students home sick. MCO is about discouraging movements, not encouraging them.
Malaysia is a blessed land, and we thank God for that. We have had no national crisis such as that caused by Covid-19. The closest to the MCO is the May 13 curfew in 1969 when the blemish of a riot happened. It was a national shame and couldn’t have been forgotten. Then, it was about race and prejudice, very visible to the naked eye. Covid-19 is a more literal virus, hidden and uncaring of race. Granted, a curfew and MCO aren’t the same thing. But campuses are where the national minds are shaped. Surely, there are grey matters there, who the vice-chancellors can turn to in times like this. On how to manage a crisis, though this is a national one. Corporations do this all the time. Or did they arrive at the decision arbitrarily to send a sea of students out into an unsuspecting crowd, enlarging the circle of infections. This is one student movement our universities should not have set loose.
Our views may be harsh on university authorities. But these are terrible times, and terribly have they failed us. When our country is marching in one direction to contain the contagion, the universities are going against this very grain. Covid-19 jumps, and it jumps in mysterious ways. But one needn’t know everything about the anatomy of the fiendish killer to stop it from spreading. Emptying the campus into the streets only makes it worse. Even if the VCs knew that the students were Covid-19-free, they should have been kept within the gates of the campus. Better still, in their dorms. For along the way, in stations and trains, they are likely to pick the virus up from others. Or the surfaces of benches, seats and everything in between as they touch and go. From there on, it will be a very dangerous spread.