Thursday, February 18, 2021

Remembering the spirit of Covid-19 SOPs, not just the letter

While we might like to blame the government for its shortcomings in handling the Covid-19 crisis, we should also do our part to keep the virus at bay.

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The government recently announced that the movement control order for Penang, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Johor will be extended. Other states will have relaxed restrictions. Meanwhile, the Covid-19 vaccination plan is set to roll out by the end of the month.

These developments came following heightened anxiety over the spike in new Covid-19 cases that have hovered between 3,000 and over 5,000 daily for around two months. At one point, our healthcare capacity was at breaking point due to the overwhelming number of cases, although the situation has now improved somewhat.

As restrictions rules change – in some places enhanced, in others maintained or relaxed – controversy still rages on whether the government’s reactions was appropriate. On the one hand, there are those who think that the government needed to relax the restrictions to keep businesses afloat.

There are also those who blame the spike in Covid-19 cases on the government’s half-hearted attempt in implementing restrictions. Among others, they cite the government’s decision to lift interstate travel in December as being to blame for the surge in cases.

To make matters worse, they point to various ministers or senior politicians who flout Covid-19 SOPs. They say that when leaders cannot follow the SOPs, how can they expect ordinary Malaysians to comply?

Both sides have valid points. But to me, two wrongs don’t make a right. It doesn’t matter whether the government has allowed dining in at restaurants or how many people can sit at a table. The bigger question that needs to be asked, at a time when Covid-19 is still around us, is whether it is necessary to eat out even if the rules allow for it.

I recall when the government allowed dining in, subject to diners being seated at least one metre apart, many did not abide by the spirit of the SOP. In mamak stalls or air-conditioned restaurants, diners were taking their own sweet time finishing their meal, and many lingered on long after they had finished their meals. Some brought along their children or the elderly despite them being in the high-risk group. Couldn’t they just have dined at home?

In malls, I have seen shoppers out and about with toddlers tagging along, oblivious to the invisible enemy lurking in the air. Once I confronted a shopper who strolled along in a mall with her kid. I asked the mother why she brought her daughter, seated in a stroller, to the mall and if she was worried about the virus. She threw me the dirty look and hurriedly walked away saying that it’s none of my business. And they were not even wearing their masks correctly!

Many of us like to blame the government for its shortcomings in handling Covid-19. While I wouldn’t say that the government is blameless, we ourselves should first do our part in keeping the virus at bay.

When the government lifts the ban on interstate travel, we should ask whether we should travel in the first place. Is it an urgent trip that cannot wait? Will the travel expose our loved ones or others at risk?

When we are allowed to dine in at restaurants, do we stay around longer than we should? Should we even dine in when we can just take away? Do we talk business over the restaurant dining table when we could have just Zoomed?

Very often, the people who complain about the government’s decisions are the same ones whose deeds elevate the transmission risk of Covid-19. I wonder how many criticise ministers who flout Covid-19 SOPs on social media using their handphones from a mamak shop when they lepak long after they finish their meals. Do they remember to wash their hands frequently?

All I can say to those who keep blaming others is, start taking responsibility!

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.

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