The new normal will be a testing time - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Monday, April 20, 2020
Malaysiakini : “Life will not be the same when we complete the third
(phase) of the MCO. That means we have to comply with certain health
regulations so we can reduce the risk of infection.” - Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah on when the movement control order (MCO) would be lifted.
| Andrew Cuomo, the embattled governor of New York who is in a pitched
battle with the Trump-led federal government, said something extremely
important when he discussed opening up New York.
said the state will determine which groups of businesses are essential
to the economy and which companies are able to protect employees and the
public from further spreading the virus.
He said that reopening commerce
in his state, and the rest of the country, in the absence of a vaccine
for the coronavirus would hinge on testing people for Covid-19 and
tracing the contacts of those people who test positive. “The more testing, the more open the economy,” Cuomo said.
Health director-general, meanwhile, said: “What is important is if we
are looking at ending the MCO (movement control order), we must have an
exit strategy, and among our indicators is the reduction in cases that
are still being treated, which is the number of cases still able to
infect others or still with a high level of infectiousness.”
so-called green zones should not be lumped together with the parts of
the country grappling with this pandemic, the reality is that one size
does not fit all, and hopefully governmental initiatives of opening up
the country takes this into consideration. Testing is the big
issue when it comes to the return of some kind of normalisation and Dr
Noor Hisham Abdullah has been talking publicly about targeted testing of
food delivery riders, foreign workers and religious school students.
the reality is that beyond these groups there is a whole range of
business and petty traders who are defined as non-essential and who have
the possibility of spreading the virus.
Foreign workers who were
laid off their jobs at a well-frequented - before the MCO - restaurant
told me that they were moving to another town outside Kuala Lumpur
because their employer said that he could not afford to pay them
When it comes to food delivery riders, as reported in the press, Noor Hisham (photo),
when questioned about who will pay for the testing, said the matter was
under the responsibility of the respective food delivery service
companies and that the tests could be performed in either public or
private clinics. “What is certain is that we will encourage them
to come to our clinics for screening. For example, if there is a super
spreader in a hospital, these delivery riders could be infected when
they deliver food there,” he said.
If the MCO is lifted, how
many other people are going to lose their jobs if the employers have to
pay for testing? Moreover, I am not only talking about foreign workers
but anyone employed by companies and small businesses. Or are they
exempt from testing? I told a hardware shop owner who was worried
about testing his employees that did he really think all those sundry
shop owners were testing their employees and did he really think that
the government was monitoring them? This is a scary thought when you
think about it.
Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj of PSM
related how some workers in factories have reported that they do not
have the required PPE and who knows if they have been tested. This makes
the idea that strict regulations post-MCO would not be as rigidly
enforced, as some would think. It also demonstrates the kind of
capitalism at play.
While big companies or
politically-connected companies will most probably get a pass, the
mom-and-pop outfits would be subjected to stricter regulation and
enforcement. Mind you, I am not against stricter regulation and
enforcement, merely pointing out the politics in play here.
live among daily wage earners. Most of them are involved in some form of
micro business. Whether working independently or collectively, the main
question they ask me, is when do I think life will return to “normal”.
need the big crowds and freedom of movement to ensure that they scrap
together the minimum to pay their monthly debts. The other side of the
coin are folks who work for companies that are not deemed “essential”.
Most often, these people try to make an argument of why the companies
they work for should be defined as essential.
Someone asked me
whether politicians are engaged in essential services, because even
though they apparently took a pay cut, most of them have all sorts of
other revenue streams. Keep in mind that there is a different role for
politicians from Perikatan Nasional (PN), where they can get groups of
people together if they follow SOP, which does not apply to the average
How are we supposed to pay our bills if we cannot work or are restricted in the way how we do business, a trader asked me. Another
middle-class couple, who was told to take no-pay leave, wondered how
they were going to pay their utility bills, insurance, car loan
repayments, house loans and a whole host of other necessities which they
could manage before the pandemic. How safe is it working in an office
which does not follow the government guidelines, but which claims it
does, they wondered.
The former prime minister in one of his many
moments of lunacy told the people that they should monetise their
hobbies. This, of course, demonstrates how out of touch the average
political potentate is with the folks he or she claims to be championing
the cause of race and religion for. Whenever I talk to political
operatives, they too do not have any idea of how the new normal looks
like. This is part of the problem. The government should be preparing
the public for what the new normal should look like.
most people especially those living a hand to mouth existence, this does
not really say anything. What the government needs to do, which they
did not really do when they started the MCO, is inform the rakyat of
what this new normal would look like. They need to make the rakyat
understand the kind of health regulations, who will pay for them - and
most importantly, how these will be enforced.
A husband and wife
who used to sell fried noodles in a stall wondered if they could resume
selling again after the MCO? They wondered if “prices” would go up and
if people could line up to get to their popular stall. The thing
is, with these micro-businesses, all of them involve the gathering of a
large number of people. If the new normal means that this is not an
option, how will these people make a living?
Meanwhile a local
religious operative who spoke to me, was upset because he didn’t know if
there would be mosque gatherings after the MCO was lifted. He really is
an outlier religious operative because he told me if there was no cure
or vaccine, the state Religious Department should ban all forms of
religious gatherings. This is something the government should consider,
he said. He continued: “They should lift the MCO after Hari Raya because
the balik kampung rush will cause more problems.”
cutter who sporadically operated during the MCO was wondering if he
should get a test before he resumes working full time or even if he will
be allowed to resume working. Sometimes the cops stop him, but
sometimes they do not. “Who will pay for my test?” he asked. He
heard that the government gives free testing, but so far he has been
unable to get tested. Meanwhile, private healthcare is beyond him and
his family. A cop I usually talk to tells me that he wonders how
the health and safety regulations are going to be enforced. He is
squatting with some friends because his young wife is pregnant and he
does not want to endanger her life.
Someone sent him a text
message of a woman who died of the virus but who gave birth to a healthy
child. This story has been playing on his mind. He gets extremely upset
whenever he sees people defying the MCO. Does this mean, we will have
more to do when the MCO is lifted?
The post-MCO is going to be a testing time, in more ways than one.