Disclaimer : The images used in the accompanying text are drawn from the social media, unless otherwise stated. Some may be considered inappropriate and for that, I offer my sincere apologies. That said, we are living in trying times.
The lockdown of Malaysia commonly known as either the MCO (Movement Control Order) or PKP (Perintah Kawalan Pergerakan), its acronym in Malay, was first introduced on the 18th of March 2020.
The introduction of the MCO was in response to the increasing number of cases that were showing symptoms of Covid-19 in Malaysia as well as taking into consideration of events unfolding elsewhere in the world.
Back then, in Malaysia, reports of China tourists making themselves scarce and even making a run for it when they were diagnosed as positive for the Covid-19 virus did not go unreported.
The discovery that a number of these ‘missing’ tourists hailed from localities in the vicinity of Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak, did not go unnoticed even though the gravity of such reports did not initially sink in til much later.
For most Malaysians, it would be with much difficulty to say exactly when a national lockdown or even a curfew for that matter, was last enforced throughout the country.
If the year 1969 came up, nobody would have batted an eyelid. Well, the older generation would not have batted an eyelid. Though it can’t be said of the younger generation, for so peaceful it has been thus far.
Hence, it would not be an exaggeration if a vast majority of the country were to be described as ‘curfew or lockdown virgins’. So to speak.
It would therefore be fair to say that the concept of a national lockdown must have been totally new to the general populace, and judging from events that unfolded as we got deeper into the lockdown phases, the same could be said of the people charged with managing the Covid-19 situation.
With the benefit of hindsight, it would be a resounding YES to the question of whether we, as a country, could have handled the Covid-19 better. But with the benefit of hindsight, of course.
As it was, managing the response to the developing pandemic situation in Malaysia was more a case of ‘learning on the job’ and ‘a baptism of fire’ for the people managing the pandemic. never mind the ordinary man (and woman) on the street.
Learning what the SOPs in effect were, how to comply with them etc, needed clear and unambiguous guidance. During the initial stages, that was fine.
Everybody were clear on what needed to be done and with the correct incentives put into place, compliancy with the SOPs was not an issue.
But when economical issues were brought into consideration, that was when the clear and unambiguous guidance initially on show started to show cracks. But for all the arguments put forward, it has to be said that the economy can only stand still for so long before long term damage sets in.
Despite it all, being Malaysians morale was still high and this was reflected in the type of social media contents making the rounds. It was essentially light hearted (mine too, looking back!) and more towards providing relief from the boredom of our everyday lockdowned lives.
For those charged with handling what is now recognized as a pandemic, it would be fair to say, it was ‘a baptism of fire’. I guess, the saying that no matter how detailed the planning may have been, and no matter how prepared you may think you are, nothing and absolutely nothing can beat the ACTUAL managment of the situation in real-time.
Regardless of whether you are a planner, a manager, or a frontliner.
A year on, the initial MCO has evolved somewhat, from MCO to CMCO (Conditional MCO), EMCO (Enhanced MCO), RMCO (Recovery MCO), MCO 2.0 (needs no clarification), and word now is that MCO 3.0 may be debuting soon.
Let us pray that if MCO 3.0 does make its debut, it will be the last of the MCO franchise, for all franchises could only maintain their enthusiasm for only so long.
When Malaysia first announced the implementation of the MCO lockdown, the number of cases, as of 23 March 2020, identified as Covid-19 +ve was 1,518, of which they were 14 fatalities attributed to the virus.
A year on, as of 17 March 2021, the number of cases identified as +ve Covid-19 cases had ballooned to 327,253 cases, with the number of deaths recorded at 1,220 cases.
It is now almost two months after that eventful anniversary and the figures have since increased significantly to 424,376 +ve cases with 1,591 deaths recorded. With the daily increase currently recorded at an average of 3,000 cases, it would not be long before the number of +ve cases reach the half a million mark.
The numbers look bleak but Malaysians should still be thankful for it is still nowhere near what Europe, the US, Iran, China and even India experienced or are currently experiencing.
Malaysians have been known to have a weird sense of humour, as shown early on when the MCO was first enforced. It can get so weird to even border on the morbid eg creating a league table of sorts from the set of figures released daily by the health authorities, with a running commentary similar to what you would otherwise hear at a racecourse.
Lest people misunderstand, its the Malaysian way of trying to look at the bright side of things. It is not so much to belittle the efforts thus far of all concerned in trying to rein in the pandemic, but a way, morbid or in bad taste it may be, aimed at lifting morale of the general population, instead of succumbing to bouts of depression as it is wont to be under the current circumstances. Morale have to be maintained, and fatalistic tendencies should not be allowed to take root.
After all, 1591 recorded deaths as of 5May 2021 is not a figure to be taken lightly. Or any other figure for that matter.
SOPs still need to be adhered to, whether we agree with them or with the manner the SOPs were drawn up. If Malaysians or any other nation for that matter ever need a reminder, we need only cast our attention towards the Indian sub-continent and the events unfolding there.
Surely, we do not ever want to experience the depths of despair as conveyed by the images that are coming out from India at the moment NOR do we want to revisit the time when similar images came out from Iran, Italy, Spain, and elsewhere early on in the pandemic.
The vaccines have been rolled out and vaccination programs have started in most parts of the world. Malaysia included.
Nevertheless, what the future holds is still anyone’s guess, bearing in mind the number of mutations that have since been discovered.
The question now is will Big Pharma play the role of the saviour of Mankind by foregoing obscene amounts of profits from not only the patents but also from the manufacture and sale of the required vaccines?
Or will they play the role of God, deciding who lives and who dies, just to make an extra buck or two?
We pray that its the former. Then again, one never knows, if that executive from one of the Big Pharma is to be believed. But for most of us, we trust humanity will eventually triumph.
That said, we still need to remind ourselves that they are still yet-to-be-resolved issues at the root of the pandemic eg where it came from, how did it came about etc. I guess, for most of Mankind, all the finger pointing and all the posturing and the brinkmanship can wait.
Priority must be the survival of Man, for that is what it has come down to. And rightly so.
For us Malaysians, we pray that this pandemic does not make it beyond a second anniversary of the MCO. If it does, only God knows what the state of the country will be in, and how many more need to die for the mistakes and for the callousness that we have had to bear til now.
Nothing is for sure nowadays, that’s for sure. The only sure bet is that life as we know it, will never be the same again.