The ‘Lockdown’ : Day 214 – The Virus Strikes Back?

Disclaimer : The images used in the accompanying text are drawn from the social media. Some may be considered inappropriate and for that, I offer my sincere apologies. That said, we are living in trying times.

Has the COVID-19 virus struck back?

Its September 3rd, 2020 and we are still in ‘lockdown’, if anyone had thought or assumed otherwise that is. Be that as it may, the current state of the Malaysian ‘lockdown’ is not as severe as when lockdown measures, known collectively as the Movement Control Order (MCO), were first introduced back in March 18, 2020.

The current phase of the MCO is known as the recovery phase and is termed as Recovery – Movement Control Order (R-MCO). It was phased in to facilitate the opening up of the local economy as much as possible and as soon as it is possible.

As most of us can make out, if the economy had remained close, it would spell disaster for the Malaysian economy and that is, as everyone of us can agree, is not at all good for all concerned : the country, the people and the sectors driving the Malaysian economy.

The R-MCO was initially scheduled to last til August 31, 2020, to coincide with the Malaysian National Day. However, events unfolding both domestically (emergence of new clusters, flouting of quarantine rules etc) and internationally (emergence of new clusters, lockdown measures re-introduced in countries eg Australia, Oman, New Zealand, Korea and Japan), demanded a re-think of existing policies, especially when the threat of the second wave was deemed to have started.

As the date of August 31 drew closer, the health authorities, whom the Government relied heavily for expert advice on the fight against the pandemic, as expected advised the Government to extend the R-MCO. It was expected to a certain extent but when it was announced, it still came as a disappointment.

And so it has come to pass, the R-MCO, as announced by the Prime Minister, was extended til December 31, 2020. Til then, it’s a ‘wait-n-see’ game ; if a actual vaccine has actually been developed and tested clinically and successfully, or if the possibility of a third wave (apparently, it is the third wave and not the second wave as we initially thought) remains just that – just a possibility, etc etc etc.

In the meantime, we can expect the economy to go wholly, if not totally, domestic. Amongst the sectors that would have been greatly affected would be :-

(a) Tourism & Hospitality

It is foreseeable that one of the economic sectors to feel the full impact of the pandemic will be the travel and tours industry and with it, the hospitality sector (hotels, homestays as well as air bnb) as well.

With the borders essentially and practically closed to all incoming visitors except for returning Malaysians, these industries will have to look at growing and developing the domestic market to offset the big drop experienced in a market dominated by the overseas markets. As witnessed elsewhere in the world, this market is dominated by tourists from China and they are not really travelling nowadays, are they? For one reason or another.

With the state of affairs current, it can be safely said that for the remainder of the year 2020, the growth of the foreign tourist market will be optimistically negligible, if not realistically zero. That would be hard to take for an industry that has basically forgotten about the domestic market as they chased the China Renminbi (RMB).

However, therein lies the rub to what most people would refer to the RESET button whenever the topic of Covid-19 pandemic comes about for a mention, and that being the pot of gold at the end of that rainbow is a tourism industry will now be a balanced market, looking out for both the domestic and foreign tourists.

I first started to write the above piece on September 23rd, 2020 and before I could finish the piece, as fate would have it (yep, I keep telling myself that), I took a bit of a breather. That ‘bit of a breather’ comprised of several mugs of tea, a bit of cakes and biscuits, and some, well, some TV.

A good and well earned breather, I must say.

All in all, that little breather lasted a good few weeks and since then, a LOT has happened, and I do mean A LOT.

Its now October the 18th and although there has been no change in the end date the R-MCO ie 31 December 2020, it has been AND is alarming to note the emergence of new clusters, as if the increase in the number of positive cases throughout the country was not enough.

So alarming has it been to the health authorities that the Federal government, taking into account the recommendations of both the health authorities and the health experts, re-introduced the C-MCO (Conditional Movement Control Order), initially to the several districts within the country but has now been expanded to include several states as well.

As of date, the states of Sabah, Selangor as well as the Federal Territories of Labuan, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya has been cordoned off, as per CMCO SOPs, in the effort to contain the spread of the virus.

As per announcement, the CMCO will be lifted on October 27th, but as everybody knows, if the number of positive cases show no sign of relenting or, God forbid, increases, then the CMCO will probably be extended.

Prior to the C-MCO being imposed on the state of Sabah, Sabahans had gone to the polls following the dissolution of the state assembly. The decision to dissolve the state assembly and call for new state elections were made following the Chief Minister’s (see picture below, left) advice to the TYT Yang Di Pertua Negeri Sabah after there was speculated that he was about to lose control of the State Assembly and therefore the State government as well, to the former Chief Minister (see below, right)

Campaigning for the state elections was typically old school with political rallies, political talks and meet-the-people sessions, the order of the day. If the number of political figures and workers from the state of Sabah was not enough, reinforcement came in droves from other parts of country.

By the evening of September 26th, the polls came and went and as fate would have it, what was probable then could not be averted and is now IS, and with it, the state of Sabah has now a new Chief Minister (see picture below) and state government installed.

However, for all these political shenanigans, there was a price to be paid. Sabah is now classified as a full blown Covid-19 red zone, with fifty-eight Covid-19 related deaths recorded in the last one month. Could we have done without the state elections? Your guess is as good as mine but as I once wrote in a post on another blog of mine, what price power?

Hopefully, the advance of this new wave of Covid-19 can be reined in and the red zones can soon be turned green again. Hopefully.

Talking about power, the current political landscape in Malaysia can be said to be in a state of flux. It has been so ever since the conclusion of the 14th General Elections in May 2018, and has continued in 2020 despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

The main reason for this can be mainly attributed to the lack of political stability. But then again, for a government formed on the simplest of a simple majority, can we expect anything less? And so begins the game of musical chairs, with the seat of Prime Minister of Malaysia as the ultimate prize.

We reap what we sow, so they say. Maybe that is now the case, for all the instability that we are going through.

But in the meantime, for us normal folks, life still has to go on. We still have to earn a living, making the best of what we can and have despite the ‘New Norm, even if its just hand-to-mouth.

Yes, but even that is better than nothing at all. Sad but so true.