YESTERDAY was the second day of the Movement Control Order (MCO). Reportedly, only about 60 per cent of Malaysians had complied on the first day. Another 110 new Covid-19 cases were reported, bringing the total tally to 900. Malaysia, now categorised as Level 3 (Red — widespread ongoing transmission) by the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the third worst-hit nation in Asia.
These are facts, not rumours. Yet, there are scores of Malaysians who are not adhering to the MCO — on social media there are pictures and videos of crowds queueing at a popular nasi kandar outlet, people milling about in supermarkets, and others walking and jogging in public parks — in clear defiance of the MCO. Eighty-three Malaysians are also among the thousands of Muslims at a religious gathering in Makassar, Indonesia. Fortunately, it has been postponed, and participants, according to The Jakarta Post, are now under quarantine. Have Malaysians not yet realised the gravity of Covid-19? Do we need a situation like China or Italy before we are shaken out of our stupor?
On Jan 23, China locked down Wuhan; it was said to be the most extreme measure at that time. On March 8, Italy shut down its northern region; two days later it was the entire country. The United Kingdom is now mulling a lockdown in London, amid concerns that residents are not heeding the advice to stay at home, according to CNN and The Telegraph. Need this Leader say more?
The MCO is not a lockdown; it is simply an order to restrict movement. It entails a full ban on mass gatherings, overseas travel and on foreign tourists entering Malaysia. And closure, among others, of public and private schools and universities, private and government premises, except those providing essential services, and business premises, except for supermarkets, grocery and convenience stores. Malaysians are not banned from leaving their homes, but we have been advised to “stay at home” as per the call by our prime minister in his televised address on Wednesday night. The MCO is necessary to break the chain of Covid-19 transmission, he said. There are bound to be disruptions to our daily activities because of it, but it is a necessary measure, as are staying at home if you feel sick, washing your hands regularly, covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing, and avoiding large social gatherings.
One may ask, how effective is a lockdown? Just look at China — two months after the lockdown, the daily number of new cases went down to single digits last week. Reportedly, experts are pointing to it as the model for other countries with outbreaks that appear to be sliding out of control. We are often asked by critics, what responsible Malaysians should do for their country. How patriotic are we? Now, at a time of such calamity, would be a novel way of professing our love for this country. As responsible citizens, we have a duty to protect and guard Malaysia from the tentacles of this coronavirus.
It was announced yesterday that if the compliance rate was still low, the army would be deployed. Indeed, tough times call for tough action. This Leader, therefore, calls on Malaysians to be responsible and sensible. If we love Malaysia and our fellow citizens, be patriotic, and do the sensible thing. Stay at home.