Adaptation seems to be, to a substantial extent, a process of reallocating your attention.  

– DANIEL KAHNEMAN, ISRAELI-AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGIST AND ECONOMIST

‘Be Prepared’, something I remember from my time in the scouts.

Sometimes no matter how forewarned we are about an impending situation; we tend to take it easy. Perhaps we have an over relaxed attitude or an ‘it cannot happen here or to me’ approach.

Ever since the news about the Wuhan virus, now officially labelled as Covid-19, broke, there has been nonstop coverage internationally about it. Although there are various versions of its source, ground zero was in the city of Wuhan in the Hubei Province of China.

It is unfortunate and sad that so many have died from this new form of flu. However, it seems to have peaked in China after a praiseworthy and extraordinary effort by the Chinese government and its people to curtail it.

I am sure many of us have known about Covid-19 and the extent of infection and the resulting deaths in some cases.

But did we take precautions? Did we change our habits? Perhaps some did. I would venture to guess the majority of us did not.

Perhaps we were mentally prepared, but not in terms of putting the necessary behavioural changes required into effect.

Covid-19 has now spread to many other parts of the world, wreaking havoc both socially and economically, just as it did in China.

The virus has now reached our shores with 34 positive cases across Sarawak at the time of writing.

Social distancing, meaning keeping our distance physically from each other, is a new terminology that has entered our terminology. This is not an easy thing to practice.

However, based on the findings in China, this was one of the key factors that helped to reduce the infection rate. We now have no choice but to practice this to be socially responsible citizens.

The soaping and washing of our hands systematically for the recommended 20 seconds is another habit we need to adopt as a practice. This is one habit we should maintained even once the virus phases out.

Another change required is also not to shake hands. We shake hands without thinking and so this is another difficult change. Perhaps more so for politicians. But there are viable alternatives such as palm to the chest over the heart or the ‘Namaste’ greeting.

The latest notice by the Registrar of Societies has also banned all meetings, gatherings and activities by NGOs until June 30. This will be particularly challenging for socially-oriented organisations that revolved around having gatherings.

The Sarawak government has also just announced a 14-day ‘Stay Home Notice’ (SHN) for those who have to enter Sarawak from March 18 onwards. The term self-isolation and self-quarantine were also being used by some before. All these are new terms and require big changes to the affected person and their families.

The word ‘lockdown’ is also commonplace now. Some on social media are demanding this. However, I do believe they do not understand the full implication of this. They are under the assumption that it means no one can enter Sarawak.

However, in addition to several other actions, it also means individuals have to stay in their homes. They are only allowed to go out periodically for essential purposes. We have not reached this stage yet and let’s hope we do not need to do so.

We can also gradually see the introduction of temperature checking as we enter certain premises. Although not widespread yet (perhaps due to the lack of scanning thermometers) this will increase and is a good thing and we should cooperate.

Other changes include working from home. I have already come across this. People I know have been asked to do work at home during their 14-day isolation period after their overseas travel.

At educational institutions, lecturers have been asked to conduct online classes or even using WhatsApp as a platform to teach. This online approach might push and force the transformation in teaching methods in the long term. We are still stuck to the concept of in-class teaching.

The other big impact is to our economy. Traditionally, it is said if the United States sneezed, the rest of the world would catch a cold, meaning the world economy suffered.

From the recent lockdown in China, it can be seen that when this ‘global factory’ shut down, the rest of the world suffered.

So now that both these two economic giants have sneezed, just imagine the economic calamity some countries are facing. Many of us have to do a lot of belt-tightening to come through these hard times.

However, most importantly, it is important that our government takes all necessary measures to ensure our safety.

Based on the comments on social media and messages sent to me, the press conference by Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg yesterday had received good support from the people. There were many positive comments.

We as individuals have the responsibility to work with the government to minimise the outbreak to help collectively to overcome this latest challenge.

Covid-19 will fade away eventually. Nonetheless, the impact will be with us for time to come. There will be lessons to be learned by both individuals and the government. Let’s stay calm.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.