2020 a year to remember

Remember, after the rain, comes the sun. And better days will be here again.

— Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Malaysian Prime Minister.

It is 18 days to 2021 and a good time to take stock of this year. 2020 has been a memorable and challenging year. Like most of you, I am looking forward to the new year and hopefully, a new beginning and better year.

2020 is the year we heard about the Covid-19 pandemic and were abruptly introduced to it. When the virus first broke out and began spreading like wildfire, like many other people in the world, I was wondering what it was all about. Why was it so dangerous and what caused it? It reminded me of stories of the bubonic plague which affected many countries and killed many people during the medieval period.

Like the plague, Covid-19 also killed indiscriminately. We learnt that the virus could cause symptoms like fever, difficulty in breathing, coughing and invasive lesions on both lungs and could cause viral pneumonia.

Although all age groups face risk of contracting the virus, old people face a higher risk because of ageing and potential underlying health conditions.

Later, as the months went by and Covid-19 cases spiked in Malaysia, we learnt that some patients never had symptoms or were asymptomatic. These were among the interesting lessons offered by the modern-day pandemic.

As the days went by and more lives were claimed by the virus throughout the world, we learnt to appreciate life more. Knowing that we can be here today and gone tomorrow, we learnt to prioritise our relationships with family and friends. With the help of technology like smartphones and WhatsApp, we try to stay connected with the people closest to us and remind each other to stay safe almost every day.

We learnt about the importance of adhering to the standard operating procedures (SOPs) to stop the pandemic from spreading. Among the SOPs are the compulsory wearing of face masks and social distancing in public places. The Ministry of Health also issued different SOPs for different workplaces.

Among the new words we learnt this year were ‘new normal’. It means a new way of living and going about our lives, work and interactions with other people.

The Covid-19 pandemic is still here. Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has announced that Pfizer’s vaccine is expected to be in Malaysia only at the beginning of next year. With no effective treatment or vaccines yet, we are all at risk. Hence, we need to work together to protect ourselves and others. We do this by avoiding the three Cs (crowded places, close-contact settings and confined and enclosed spaces), by practising protective measures and protecting ourselves and others. For example, we have to wear face masks and wash our hands regularly with soap and water or hand sanitisers.

2020 is the year many of us realise how fortunate we are to have been born in Malaysia, particularly Sarawak. While citizens in many countries were dying because of Covid-19, the Malaysian government under Muhyiddin has controlled the spread of the virus by imposing movement restrictions in many parts of the country.

With the pandemic affecting businesses and people’s livelihood, both the federal and state governments offered various forms of financial assistance to help the people ease their burden in facing the virus.

The Covid-19 pandemic also affected the education of students in the country. Schools opted for online learning or e-learning with technology to replace face-to-face learning. Covid-19 thus quickened the journey towards online learning and accelerated the digitalisation of education for the ultimate good of the nation and our people.

In the country, Zoom meetings and webinars have replaced face-to-face meetings. One obvious advantage of using technology is that governments, organisations, businesses, universities, educators and others can cut back on travelling costs.

The first Covid-19 case in Malaysia was detected on January 25 this year. Now almost a year later, we have all got used to the SOPs and the new normal. For example, we wear face masks when we go out to public places. We are used to the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Perhaps, it is time for this brand new saying — “A mask a day keeps Covid-19, doctors and hospitals away.”

Soon, we will bid farewell to 2020 and welcome 2021. But one thing is for sure — years from now, we will be talking to our grandchildren and perhaps our great grandchildren about the year 2020. We will remember the challenges brought about from the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly the various lessons it taught us. Deep in our hearts, we will be thankful we are living in Malaysia, particularly Sarawak, where the government is doing a good job in curbing the spread of the virus.