PN's business as usual, even in a worst-case Covid scenario - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Monday, February 01, 2021
Malaysiakini : “Why are we really implementing an MCO when Covid-19
cases are rising but restrictions are getting looser. If that is the
case, just stop the MCO to be fair to everyone.” - Najib Abdul Razak
Finance Minister Tengku Zafrul Abdul Aziz said the government would not
implement a total lockdown even if a worst-case scenario comes true. This
begs the question: what is the worst-case scenario? What happens if the
healthcare system breaks down? What happens if the majority of the
frontliners get Covid-19 and a sizeable majority of them perish?
happens if the businesses collapse because the rakyat, in the grip of
an unattended pandemic, imposes a lockdown on themselves for fear of
spreading the virus to high-risk groups in their families? Why did
this government declare an emergency and claim that this pandemic was
the cause for such an action if it is not treating this as war, a war I
might add that this government is losing?
Already the federal
government’s response to this pandemic has been scaling down testing and
loosening restrictions, even as the numbers climb. Hence we get an
inkling of what may happen when it comes to "tightening SOPs" in a
worst-case scenario. Najib is right when he asked why the need for
this MCO when everything seems to be open and superspreader situations
like night markets and the like are given the green light to open while
the government continues to harp on the efficacy of the MCO and the need
for an emergency posture.
This half-past-six MCO, like
the faux emergency, is making this country a tragic lesson in what not
to do in a pandemic and the public is rightly confused every time
Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob issues his nonsensical diktats and
feuds with Pakatan Harapan political operatives on Twitter because of
his xenophobic statements.
Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) chairperson Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj, as usual, wrote a coherent piece on herd immunity
and vaccinating foreign workers, which is completely different from the
government stance of demonising foreign workers and attempting to make
them the focus of the federal governments failed response.
point that stands out in his piece is this: “Are they (foreign workers)
waiting with bated breath for the vaccine? I seriously doubt it. Because
for them, Covid-19 isn’t as serious a threat as it is for Malaysians.
Migrant workers are, on the whole, fairly healthy adults between the age
of 20 and 50 years. The chance of them dying of Covid-19 is very low.”
is the problem right here. No, not the foreign workers, but rather the
response of the federal government to this reality. While the pandemic
may not be a health problem for them, it is a serious economic problem
for them and this, in turn, results in an unwitting spreading of the
virus through local communities for various reasons, none of which
remotely coincides with the anti-foreigner narratives of the state.
the rakyat sees political operatives breaking SOPs, or when the
government rolls back on restrictions, it makes the pandemic less
serious and it becomes a partisan issue, rather than a health
There is a strong mistrust for what the government is
doing and the statements and strategy coming out from the occupants of
Putrajaya do nothing to allay those fears and mistrust. Take the issue
of testing. The Health director-general claims that the system is under
such a burden and that the Health Ministry has decided to scale down on testing.
Therefore, when groups representing private hospitals and practitioners ask the government not to threaten
them because of slow test results, what we have is a toxic brew of
government incompetence that bleeds into the private sector that is
already struggling with the economic effects of the pandemic. As
the numbers go up, state administrators scramble to find excuses and
blame shifts while the federal government, embroiled in political
machinations, attempts to paint a picture of competency.
the rakyat, jaded and fatigued, go about dismantling the new normal in
creative ways because neither the MCO nor the emergency makes any sense,
beyond putting up hurdles to supporting their families.
still want an answer from Harapan as to what their policies would be
when it comes to handling this pandemic. State-run Harapan governments
like Selangor and Penang are as incompetent as the federal government,
embroiled in petty national politics – which only does to further the
safety of their populace. I still want to know how Harapan would
deal with enforcement and outreach programmes because this present
government has proved that it is not up to the task.
vaccine issue is a mess, with nobody in the government attempting to
formulate a strategy of vaccination beyond the numerous scandals
involving vaccines and the companies aiming to distribute them.
I argued in another piece, this “emergency”, and we can add the current
MCO, is a complete mess. As the numbers go up and the excuses pile up,
the people who are suffering are those who are the most economically
disenfranchised and those whose job security are at the whims of a
federal bureaucracy that is more interested in saving its own behind
than formulating a cohesive federal level strategy to battle this
And let us not even discuss the frontliners, who we are
told are at a breaking point – but which do not warrant serious
mitigation policies to ease the burden on them. I spoke to a
Harapan political operative who favoured a targeted approach to the MCO,
which she hopes would include stricter enforcement, and to another
Harapan political operative who was in favour of a total lockdown for
two weeks to get a handle on the situation before easing up on
Both place the health safety of frontliners first
because both have been involved in the health security issue for years
and have seen, first hand in other Third World countries, what happens
when the healthcare system breaks down. They fear the same could happen
here. It should make you wonder: if the worst-case scenario ever materialises, what would be PN's response?
We are dealing with a pandemic, the aftermath of which would have major implications on the way we live and work. Business as usual in this case could be crippling.