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.

The date : May 19th 2020. The day : Day 56 of the lockdown, coinciding with the 26th day of the blessed month of Ramadhan.

If the lockdown ala Malaysia was previously known as the ‘Movement Control Order (MCO)’, it has now evolved into what is called the ‘Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO)’ and has been referred as that since the 4th of May and is expected to remain so til the day of June 9th.

Whats the difference between the MCO and the CMCO, some may ask. One of the marked differences is that Malaysians are now able to travel freely within the state one is locked down in, which in itself is a big difference when compared to the MCO when one could barely travel beyond a 10-km radius from one’s home.

Inter-state travel is in the meantime barred although on a case-by-case basis, it is allowed on the proviso that valid police travel permit has been issued by the local police, and even that it is STRICTLY on a case-by-case basis.

Another marked difference between the MCO and the CMCO is that more and more economic sectors and establishments are allowed to open for business. Of course, there are exceptions eg clubs, nightspots, hair salons but hey, then again you can’t actually put social distancing measures in place in those places and who the hell wears face masks when clubbing?

A semblance of a family outing is allowed, with a maximum of four to a vehicle, on condition the four have the same place of abode. This piece of news was greeted with good cheer by many already dying for a brew not prepared from a 4-in-1 or a 3-in-1 pre-mixed sachet.

As for me, I am not one of them as my brew of tea or coffee are prepared with either tea bags the best local tea can offer or a fresh mix of grounded coffee from the different coffee growers in Malaysia.

But it can be said that all in all, it can be surmised that the authorities seems to effectively wound down some of the SOPs that has been into place since MCO Phase 1, with this time, the onus is on Malaysians themselves to keep and maintain the discipline in the fight to keep the Covid-19 pandemic at bay.

However, all these developments as prescribed under the CMCO is just that : CONDITIONAl, first upon the fight to ‘flatten the curve’ is not only being won but also to be seen to be won, and secondly being Malaysians themselves maintaining the discipline and holding on to the responsibility entrusted to not breach the conditions of the CMCO.

Thus far, the compliance has been quite good. Thats what happens when we have been fully briefed and educated with graphs and data with respect to the fight against the spread of the Covid-19 virus and know what is required from us, the citizens.

Despite all that, there have been reports of the police and the army personnel manning strategic points within the country, having to force vehicles without the necessary inter-state travel permits to turn back to whence they came from.

These reports are not that all surprising as it had been expected to be an issue especially with the Eid-ul-Fitri celebrations coming up this weekend, where its tradition for families to travel back home to their hometowns and villages to get together for the Syawal festivities, that the public had to be gently reminded that the fines and summonses enforced during the previous phases of the MCO has never been rescinded and are still in place. Hopefully, that would do the trick.

I must admit that I rather enjoyed the lockdown. I was able to catch up on my reading and my writing, as well as catch up on my favourite TV shows with added bonus of other previously unheard of but no less interesting TV shows.

The lockdown also gave me the opportunity to spend precious and much valuable time getting to know my grown-up family again, re-discovering my five grown-up sons (no daughters though and daughter-in-laws yet!) and their maturing but contrasting personalities, as well as savouring the delights of my wife’s TLC cooking.

But as a professional freelancer whose economic viability depends on the capacity to take on projects, I am getting rather concerned as the MCO drags on.

This is rather obvious as the longer the MCO or the CMCO is in place, freelance professionals such as myself, would be deprived of much needed and valuable income. The economic effects of the lockdown would have been lessened had we been freelance professionals in the field related to the Internet and Information Technology (IT).

But if there are any lessons that can be drawn during the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic is that sacrifices have to be made, by they who served in the frontlines and by they who just stayed at home, if we are to be successful in the fight against the pandemic.

From all accounts, it seems that lockdowns appear to be an effective tool in breaking the chain of infectious trasmissions, as is good and sound strategic management, and is logically therefore unavoidable if we are to get out of this pandemic safe and sound.

That said, I take comfort in the knowledge that I am not the only one with the same economic concerns and will eagerly look forward to the deluge of engagements (praying hard!) that I am going to receive after the CMCO is lifted.

Of course, life after the CMCO is lifted could not be expected to be the same as before. The phrase ‘The New Norm’ has been bandied about so much that personally, I believe we are being conditioned to act out ‘The New Norm’, whatever that may actually be, for its not all about social distancing, wearing masks and sanitizing or washing your hands every time you venture out from home to shop.

Being humans and acknowledging us people as what we truly are, will we be reverting to life as what it was before being rudely interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic? And would we be ever so mindful of the lessons that we have learnt from our experiences during the lockdown? Personally, I would say ‘Yes’ to the former and again ‘Yes’ to the latter, and that is what makes it so confusing.

Afterall, you cannot expect people to go clubbing or organise parties and observe social distancing, now would you?

I mean, we have all been young once and we have all, at one point or another, attended parties either at university halls or clubs or at our friend’s homes. Its always jammed packed, to say the least. And unless its a Halloween or a fancy dress party, no one would be sporting face masks, now would they?

Same thing applies to professional sports. Off the field , fans at professional contact sports games like football or even rugby, cannot be expected to observe social distancing when their team scores a goal or a try, can they?

For that matter, the players themselves. Afterall, its a form of celebration. You can’t celebrate the rush of emotions and the exuberance by just lifting your hand and say ‘hey, I scored. Wink wink, nudge, nudge’.

To take it a notch further, imagine an MMA contest if social distancing be put into action. I venture that it would not be long before the MMA contest be transformed with the audience taking on the organizers instead. I mean, they came to see two issue-ridden fighters slug it out. That means close quarters, not at one meter apart.

It food for thought, is it not, what ‘The New Norm’ is going to be actually like. Hence the confusion. Will we go back to square one?

Well, we will know soon enough. But in the meantime, its time to break fast for the day and my wife’s cooking smells awfully good.

So be safe and stay safe.