Pray we don’t become a ‘Little India’

Be fast, have no regrets … If you need to be right before you move, you will never win.

– Mike Ryan, WHO epidemiologist

The Covid-19 situation in our country isn’t getting any better. Neither is the situation in Sarawak.

The grim figures speak for themselves, and so long as the authorities and the people don’t work hand in hand to bring down the cases, don’t ever dream of the situation improving anytime soon.

 As of noon yesterday, Malaysia logged in 3,418 new infections, with — you guessed it — Selangor contributing the highest number at 1,200.

Sarawak is the second-highest contributor at 587 followed by Kelantan (400), Johor (213), Kuala Lumpur (198) and Terengganu (184).

Let’s look at the Sarawak figures for the last nine days from April 24 to May 2.

On April 24 we recorded 570 new infections and five deaths; April 25 — 595, three; April 26 — 615, six; April 27 — 432, three; April 28 – 416, six; April 29 — 522, two; April 30 – 760, five; May 1 — 445, two and May 2 — 587, two.

The state’s cumulative total for the last nine days is 4,942 new infections and 34 deaths. Situation under control? Hardly! So, let’s not kid ourselves that things are manageable.

The country will never get to flatten the curve — definitely not in the next two or three months — judging from the rate of response from the rakyat to the ongoing vaccination campaign, the double standards of the authorities and certain politicians, and the tidak apa (couldn’t-care-less) attitude of our society itself. 

We have been reminded time and again to wear masks at all times, right? Yet there are people who avoid the masks for whatever reason best known to themselves.

We have stubborn townsfolk and villagers bringing children out on shopping or ‘bazaar’ sprees, knowing too well that they are putting these young people at risks.

We have politicians who do not wish or think they can’t afford to offend their constituents, and therefore kowtow (bow) to the latter’s demands, not realising that by doing so they are not helping to contain the pandemic.

As one retired politician friend aptly put it recently when he commented on the green light given to organisers of a Ramadan bazaar: “It’s election season, brother. They can’t afford to make their supporters unhappy. Don’t be naïve, you and I know that.”

Oh yes! Votes are more important than the lives of the people?  

And finally, we have fickle-minded politicians who change their decisions as frequently as they change their soiled undergarments, confusing us in the process.

How then are we expected to flatten the curve if we — the politicians, medical authorities and the people — do not make sacrifices? Waiting for miracles? Remember, God only helps those who help themselves!

It’s high time that we took the cue from the South Asian Covid pandemic, that is, if it’s not too late yet. See what happened to the people in India.

A country which took pride in having low infections and fatalities only last year is now fighting a losing battle with the virus.   

What happened? The answer is simple. Politicians and people threw caution to the wind. They should have learned from the US experience under Donald Trump. But obviously the Indians didn’t, and they are now paying a heavy price.

It’s India’s biggest crisis since Narendra Modi took office in 2014. Let’s see how his handling of the situation will affect the prime minister politically. 

Apparently, medical advisers and scientists had earlier warned Modi’s government of a new and more contagious variant of the coronavirus but the authorities did not adopt proper measures to curb the spread.

Politicians and millions of unmasked people attended religious festivals and political rallies held by Modi and other leaders.

The second-most populous country is struggling against a second wave of infections that is much more severe than the first last year.

Nationwide, India reported daily infections of more than 300,000 for the past nine days, the worst anywhere in the world. Deaths have spiked too, exceeding 200,000 last week.

Yesterday, it reported 392,562 new infections and 3,688 deaths, a global record.

Why didn’t New Delhi pay heed to its scientists and medical experts’ early warning?

Scientist Shahid Jameel believes that the authorities were not paying enough attention to the evidence presented as they set policy.

“Policy has to be based on evidence and not the other way around. I am worried that science was not taken into account to drive policy.

“But I know where my jurisdiction stops. As scientists we provide the evidence, policymaking is the job of the government.”

According to reports, the government took no steps to prevent gatherings that might hasten the spread of the pandemic.

Modi, and other politicians, including opposition figures, held rallies across the country for local elections throughout March and into April despite warnings from medical experts.

Religious festivals were also held with millions of devotees taking part, making the situation worse. People listened to politicians more than scientists.

It is a ticking time bomb. India is at wits end how to contain the pandemic.

We in Malaysia, Sarawak in particular, can only pray that our politicians listen to our medical experts and avoid becoming a ‘Little India’.