As at the date of writing, there are 2 (reported) deaths and 790 (reported) confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Malaysia. As an attempt to contain the coronavirus outbreak, Malaysia implemented a movement control order having effect from 18th March to 31st March.

This is a time of crisis. This is also a defining moment.

The people

The defining moment for the ordinary folks in Malaysia came in 3 stages.

The first stage is when the news of the coronavirus first hit Malaysia. People started hoarding surgical masks and hand sanitizers, and then sell them off at an inflated price. They took advantage of the situation where supplies of such items are critical to people who really need them. It’s business, but an unethical one.

Credit: Fahmi Redza

The second stage started when people caught wind of a purported potential imposition of lockdown in Malaysia. People started panic-buying in groceries stores across Malaysia. You see people hoarding all sorts of daily necessities. As people emerged from the payment counter feeling victorious over the goods that they swept off the shelf, they failed to consider people who equally need these daily necessities, like senior citizens or people with disabilities who could not fight their way into the grocery store as quickly as them.

The third stage happened 24 hours before the movement control order took effect. The balik kampung exodus started. This happened because of a lack of understanding of the whole idea of the movement control order. The idea to stay-home is to stay where you are, and not to literally go back home (like home, home) and stay. The movement control order is a desperate measure called in desperate times; this is not a holiday, period.

Credit: Fahmi Redza

(P.s. The movement control order is not a lockdown. It is “nothing like the lockdowns faced by those in Italy and China“, it is “the best expression of social distancing“.)

The leaders

This whole period of the COVID-19 outbreak has been a defining moment for our leaders.

Malaysians witnessed an extraordinary change in government in the midst of this dire state of affairs – the worsening of the coronavirus outbreak and the consequential stifling of the national economy.

In such challenging times, we see leaders who show themselves as politicians first and leaders later.

We have leaders calling for a snap election without understanding the gravity of the outbreak and the implication of an election at difficult times.

At a point in time when there was a surge of confirmed cases attributed to the “ijtimak tabligh” gathering that took place at the Jamek Sri Petaling Mosque, we have a minister saying there was no requirement for Friday prayers to be suspended notwithstanding the critical circumstances at the material time.

There was also a deputy minister saying that while there is 1% likelihood of us dying of COVID-19, there is a 100% possibility of us dying anytime, and in effect there ought not be fear for God has had everything planned for us.

And of course, we have a prime minister chairing a special meeting on the COVID-19 pandemic without inviting States led by the opposition, and then allowing the Chief Secretary to the Government to take the bullet when criticised for his conduct by the people.

Credit: Zunar

Bright side

As with many things in life, there is a bright side to look on at this trying time.

We have doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and healthcare workers who remain steadfast in their commitment to provide the best healthcare services to the people. As the frontliners combating COVID-19, they have been working around the clock and practising self-imposed social distancing since day one. The former means exposing themselves to risks of infection and the latter means no physical contact with their loved ones for as long as the fight takes. I do not think this is out of pure fearlessness, but a great deal of selflessness and sense of duty.

We have supermarkets like Jaya Grocer and Mydin allocating special operating hours and priority payment counters for senior citizens and people with disabilities.

We have businesses which are doing their best to cater to our needs in the midst of the implementation of the movement control order whilst trying to sustain their business.

What we can do

The endgame is to #flattenthecurve. What does it mean? Read this and watch this. They are both informative and easy to understand.

What can we do?

Practise social-distancing. Technically, that means keeping at least a 6-feet distance between yourself and other people. That also means minimizing (or even better, avoiding) physical contact with people. It may not be as easy as it sounds as it’s contrary to human nature, but it’s essential that we practise it, especially in light of the movement control order.

Be kind and considerate. When you see someone ignorant, educate them and help them understand why it’s important to #flattenthecurve. It may be as simple as correcting your friend when he refers to the movement control order as a lockdown, or telling your Ah Ma not to panic-buy, or telling people around you that it’s important to abide by the movement control order.

Now, it would be even better if you could keep yourself updated with the latest news and read up reliable scientific information. Spread knowledge, not fear. Share verified information, not fake news.

These actions may be simple but they are important. With collective effort, these actions will make a difference.

When a defining moment comes along, you define the moment or the moment defines you.

Roy McAvoy in Tin Cup
Credit: Fahmi Redza

Stay safe (and be kind), my fellow Malaysians.

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