Let’s get tougher!

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

– Martin Luther King, American activist

It was on March 13, 2020 that we in Sarawak had the first Covid-19 cases with three persons in Kuching being tested positive.

Great efforts were made by the Sarawak government to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus and at the same time, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg had also announced a series of financial aid packages that have provided the much-needed financial relief for many Sarawakians.

The efforts of the government had their desired effects and the curve was flattened.

We all patted ourselves on the back but unfortunately, some people went back to their old habits instead of maintaining the new norms of hygiene.

I remember writing in my column on March 24, 2020 under the heading ‘Let’s together stop the third wave’ and that if the third wave (local to local transmissions) takes place, we can only blame ourselves.

And on August 4, 2020, I further wrote about the dangers of complacency titled ‘Snap out of Covid-19 complacency’.

However, complacency is exactly the state of mind we adopted and now we are being battered by the third wave of the Covid-19 virus.

Datuk Seri Dr Datuk Sim Kui Hian, the Minister of Local Government and Housing, who is the advisor to the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC), on March 25, 2021 in his Facebook posting stated that he would not be surprised if we went beyond the four digits daily (Covid-19 infections) here in the next one to two months.

Considering that the government and all the authorities made all the efforts to contain the virus, I can only surmise that some members of the public did not pay heed to the SOPs.

Many are now sharing videos of the terrible situation unfolding in India where due to complacency and incompetent government decisions, daily infections of more than 300,000 are being recorded.

You might have seen the extracts of videos on social media with infected people lying on hospital floors; persons not being admitted to hospital due to lack of space; lack of ventilators and oxygen leading to countless deaths; cremations being done on roadsides; distraught family members who have lost loved ones, and many more distressing and tragic scenes.

I am sure we do not want to see these scenes being played out here. However, there is increasing concern among many that this is the direction we seem to be going towards.

There are murmurs that there should be a full lockdown again. However, can Sarawak afford another round of major economic upheaval?

Nonetheless, at the same time, I also prescribe to the chief minister’s approach that lives once lost cannot be brought back. So, what approach should we take and what is the balanced way forward?

I do believe that tough enforcement with no discounts on compound fines is the only option left if we do not want a lockdown.

Most people who regularly breach the SOPs perhaps feel that the continuous warnings of the ‘don’t be naughty and don’t do it again’ approach means the authorities are not serious.

Abang Johari and Deputy Chief Minister cum chairman of SDMC Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas have both repeatedly stressed the importance of following the SOPs.

Together with other enhanced measures that are already in place and with full public cooperation, a lockdown can be avoided.

The chief minister has faith in this as he stated that the curve has been flattened before and it can be done again.

It would also be most helpful if the local politicians in their respective areas promote the enforcement of effective SOPs. 

As has been opined by many, this is not the time to fish for votes and water down enforcement efforts to keep some people happy. This type of ‘little napoleon’ behaviour serves only to undermine the good efforts of the SDMC and cause the loss of lives, not to mention prolonging the economic recovery of Sarawak.

While the Covid-19 virus is still on the rampage, the government has been busy setting up vaccination centres.

To date, in Miri City there have been many compliments by the public in the press and social media, and via personal messaging to all the parties involved in the running and management of the vaccination centres.

It is common to see the Datuk Lee Kim Shin, the minister in charge of the Miri Divisional Disaster Management Committee (MDDMC), making regular visits to all the vaccination centres to assist in fine-tuning and facilitating the procurement of resources for the centres.

While waiting for at least 80 percent of us to be vaccinated, let us all once again come together and keep each other safe and alive.

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