Recently, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said in a television interview that he was willing to take abuse for the tough measures by the government to curb the spread of Covid-19. “They can scold the prime minister. I accept. Scold ‘stupid prime minister’, it’s okay,” he was quoted as saying.
Since then, the prime minister has been mocked for being self-deprecatory and for “admitting” to being a fool. But this begs the question of who is really being the fool here as the nation faces its most ominous crisis since the 1969 racial riots.
On May 29, the country recorded a record high in new Covid-19 infections at 9,020 cases for the fifth consecutive day, with another record 98 deaths. Just a day earlier, Putrajaya announced a two-week full lockdown nationwide starting June 1 as public health capacities buckled under the sheer weight of the Covid-19 caseload and body count.
One would think that such grim numbers, coupled with tragic tales in the media of how some have lost multiple family members to the coronavirus within days of each other, would strike horror and panic among Malaysians.
Unfortunately, a sizable number of us still pay no heed to such warnings. Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah must have been equally stumped and stupefied when he shared on his social media photos of traffic jams in the Klang Valley on Saturday.
One could almost hear the disappointment and helplessness in his tone when he posted on Facebook, “Where are you all going?” together with photos of the traffic snarls. Why Malaysians need to be out and about in such numbers at a time when our fight against the unseen enemy is at its most critical, defies reason.
The statistics speak for themselves. Noor Hisham has said that some 26 Hari Raya clusters were declared involving 1,013 positive cases and two deaths. The National Security Council had explicitly banned Hari Raya gatherings.
The infection rate for such clusters was 25.1% – far exceeding the World Health Organization’s recommendation of below 5%. As the incubation period for the virus is around two weeks, we can only expect more Hari Raya clusters to show up in the days ahead.
From April 1 to May 28, 20 interstate clusters were also detected, involving 1,420 cases. Surely not all of them were travelling due to work. Have they forgotten that the virus travels with them, infecting their family members and loved ones, at times killing them?
These irresponsible people who think that they are immune to a virus that has killed millions worldwide are also not being fair to those who dutifully abide by the SOPs like staying at home unless for an emergency or to buy necessities. And they are being reckless, bordering on criminal, by putting the lives of others at risk.
And by collectively contributing to the spike in cases, they have forced the government to impose a full nationwide lockdown. In one fell swoop, the country loses hundreds of millions of ringgit a day, denying daily wage-earners the opportunity to put food on the table with businesses shuttered and jobs lost.
The question that begs an answer now is: “Is the prime minister stupid for being forced to impose strict measures?” or “Are the people who, through their heedlessness in complying with simple SOPs, stupid?”
The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.