The second phase of the Movement Control Order (MCO) starts by 1st April 2020. The pandemic in Malaysia was predicted to peak around middle of April and based on mathematical models of the Italian pandemic, Malaysia may need to tide through this pandemic till late June.
So this pandemic affects March till June, almost a quarter of the year 2020.
Pandemics require a community response, not just health response.
Therefore, the role of government in leading the community response cannot be overemphasised. The government should stop publicising themselves to earn political brownie points and instead let their efforts speak for themselves plus start setting good role models for the people to emulate.
1. Practice social distancing or online for important meeting.
The lack of social distancing can be seen in the photo of the meeting with the Finance Minister, one day prior to announcing Pakej Prihatin.
2. Unnecessary “field trips” or “photo ops” should be stopped.
It can attract crowds and gathering of journalists who potentially spread viruses among them without proper social distancing.
3. Poorly-used PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) and wastage should be stopped.
PPEs are lifesavers for medical frontliners. This with regards to the recently used of Tyvek Suits by a Minister conducting sanitation practice without any social distancing.
Government hospitals’ health care workers, although they observe the highest amount of personal protection and adhere to strict protocols, are however relatively poor in adherence of social distancing among themselves, ie in break room, pantry or common areas and corridors. It can also be seen in the string of pictures in social media without any social distancing between the health care workers.
The gold standard of prevention of infection is still the combination of disinfecting the environment, social distancing and PPEs. Social distancing cannot be overemphasised.
Although salvaging severe patients with severe or critical symptoms requires team effort, but the most vital part of the team is the anaesthetists. Anaesthetists are also the group of specialists with the highest risk of being infected due to aerosolisation of the viruses during intubation, in emergency or before operation.
During intubation for a Covid-19 patient, they are the ones that dive into the Covid-19 soup with a tube. It has also shown that early intubation and ventilation for Covid-19 patients have better prognosis of recovery.
In USA, doctors of other subspecialty or specialty are being recruited to learn and refresh their knowledge and skills on intubation and ventilators management in preparation of acute shortage of anaesthetists. The medical fraternity must protect them and their art at all costs.
As we rejoiced for the 500-plus Covid-19 patients who had fully recovered and developed immunity towards the disease, probably the Ministry of Health can tag them with a wristband and encourage them to volunteer to assist the frontliners in the hospitals, if they are fit to contribute or the government can recruit them to help out as national service.
As for community responses, I would like suggest 4 prongs of government-led community response – Hygiene, Home Activities, Trade and Welfare.
The Ministry of Tourism and Culture can set up policies or guidelines for all hotels and lodging facilities for sanitation, screening for occupants for high risks and network with Health Ministry for contact tracing.
The Ministry of Transport can set up policies or guidelines for all buses and public transports to implement social distancing, screening for users for Covid-19 risks, sanitation strategies, listing of information of all users to better network with Health Ministry in contact tracing.
The Ministry of Housing and Local Government can initiate sanitation exercises at hotspot areas and gather developers to source unused venues to set up as quarantine centres for contacts of Covid-19 patients.
The Ministry of Home Affairs assisted by Ministry of Defence is doing a brilliant job by coordinating police and army in ensuring MCO are properly adhered to.
However, instead of closing down morning markets which do not adhere to the MCO practice of social distancing, perhaps they can have “Social Distancing” Officers to assist and advice the management of markets and hypermarkets such as limit of people entering the premises, 1-metre distance queue at entrance, proper sanitation of all trolleys or baskets after use, obligatory masks for consumers, alternate stalls opening on alternate days, screening of all consumers at entrance and etc.
The Minister of Education and Minister of Higher Education should start setting guidelines and assistance to respective schools to start online classes.
Parents at home should be guided on setting up a separate area/corner for their little ones to have the online classes even though it is challenging for most households.
Some of the schools had already started these online classes using various platforms and teachers are setting different time schedules for those classes which are difficult to keep track. Hope Ministry will ensure those classes follow the original school timetable so that the students would not be confused by separate timing of lessons. After all, all government servants are being paid during MCO and will receive bonus via Pakej Prihatin.
Ministry of Youth and Sports should also start online campaigns to bring “together” youths virtually for sports, arts and entertainment. There should be examples of how healthy exercises can be done at home, without going to the park to jog alone.
A friend of mine walked around her house for many, many, many rounds up to total distance of 15km. In China, there are instances of people walking 2 tables for 100km.
The Minister of Religious Affairs can come up with various ways of fulfilling religious obligations without having to gather or enable online “gatherings” during these difficult moments.
The early history of practice of various religions at the time of plague can be studied and modified to our current contemporary situation.
The Ministry of Multimedia and Communication is probably the core support for all online activities at home listed above. Hence, the Ministry should ensure all the network and connectivity are at its maximum potentials as the usage will be greatly increased.
Coverage areas should be diligently widened at this period of time to enable greater accessibility to all rakyat.
Economic activities do not purely rely on loan moratorium or financial relief but the dynamics of trade and market. The Ministry of Finance delivered a brilliant financial package which focuses on the B40 and the M40 however a one-off assistance is a short term relief.
Our aim is sustainability and persistence. Ministry of Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism should look into the online market platforms such as Lazada, 11streets, Shopee, Facebook groups or pages.
They also can assist those small traders who are not internet-savvy to enter such online market platforms. This will greatly reduce crowds going into morning markets and hypermarkets.
Local or state governments can also assist local grocery shops and hawkers to do delivery within the small housing areas. The residents pre-order and pay online.
Then the merchandise or food are delivered to their doors by the vendors, hence reducing people leaving their houses and reducing crowds at the grocery shops
There should be guidelines and policies for food delivery riders or walkers. They should be paid at higher rate as they risks their life in their line of work. They also should be screened daily for Covid-19 risks via temperature check to ensure they themselves are not the superspreaders of Covid-19 or other infections. Every delivery platform should have a common policies and guidelines.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry should also work out an online platform to enable agricultural harvests can reach the consumers at home with minimal human contact and to prevent agricultural food wastage.
Many felt imprisoned by the MCO at home but there are many who do not even have a home to begin with. The Penang State government took the initiative to gather the homeless people, gave them health check and provided them a simple make-shift place to stay with proper distancing and isolation with the help of volunteers and NGO. Perhaps other state governments can start this initiative as well.
The Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development should review the current guidelines by Ministry of Health for pregnant ladies and disseminate more information to the pregnant ladies to reassure them in delivering in public hospitals.
Recently, the death of a medical officer together with her 9-month-old child on the way to work from a hospital to another hospital truly struck medical personnels’ hearts, especially those who are parents themselves.
With the closure of all nurseries and kindergartens, the Ministry needs to devise or come up with a strategy with assistance of NGOs to provide safe childcare support for the medical personnel.
Synergism between married couples should be left to the couple themselves. Advice on make-up, appearance, and voice changes are simply superficial.
The Ministry of Rural and Regional Development should look into the welfare of Orang Asli and their medical needs and have liaison officers to educate them on the prevention strategy as well as have medical response workflow in the event of an outbreak in their villages.
Ministry of Human Resources can look into the welfare, hygiene and health of foreign workers and foreigners. There should be a clear network between the liaison officers and embassies to educate them on the disease prevention strategy. It is vital to liase with Health Ministry to ensure early medical response workflow as well as to ease contact tracing.
Every Ministry should have a Covid-19 blueprint or strategy to fight this war together while making our lives more livable or shall I say, more bearable.
The blueprint ideally should be already been thought of during the first phase of MCO, but it is still not too late to start right away.
Leaders of the Ministry, Director-Generals and Minister should start working today, night and day to hasten the delivery of this blueprint and its implementation on the ground. There is no time to lose. Every second counts.
Opposition coalition, Pakatan Harapan – on top of questioning the current government, perhaps it is time to contribute your ideas and brainwork, instead of keeping it to yourself till you are being voted into power or have the numbers to form majority.
When you help the government do better, you are directly helping the rakyat. And please continue to monitor the government for any shortfalls, corruption and backchannelling in the handling of this crisis.
The recent Perikatan National government move to allocate RM100,000 to each Member of Parliament to cope with the Covid-19 crisis should be applauded and its usage should be fully accounted for.
Your magnanimous contribution to your political enemies for the benefit of rakyat, will never be forgotten. Now, the common enemy is the pandemics.
State governments have their own working machineries and should emulate each other and conform to local community’s eccentricities to fight this war more efficiently and allow the circumstances to be more tolerable to the rakyat.
We are facing soon the largest cultural event of Malaysia – Ramadhan and Hari Raya Puasa. It is not true that only the Muslim-Malays celebrating this event.
All Malaysians, irrespective of race and religion celebrates it because it is part of our national identity. However, there must be a government-led community response to modify the celebration with regards to our current pandemics.
Pandemics require a community response, not just health response.
This is the time to unite in distancing and to divide our ways while heading towards a common goal of surviving this long haul.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.