KUCHING: Today is day 13 of the movement control order (MCO) or partial lockdown and Sarawak is still standing strong in battling Covid-19 pandemic.
In this fight, this vibrant city is now not unlike a ghost town at certain places with hardly any people on the streets. Those who venture out of their homes out of necessity more often than not wear face masks for fear of the virus.
The best part was that there are no more traffic jams, but at the same time it is sad to see because that is not the city’s usual self.
At several locations, police roadblocks have become a daily affair to enforce the MCO. The authorities don’t want people going around freely spreading the disease (albeit unwittingly) or contracting the virus from others.
At night, the streets become even more ghostly as businesses are not allowed to operate after 7pm and no one is allowed outside of their homes. The heart of the city, however, seems oblivious to the crisis, remaining as it has always been with its bright street lights and blazing neon signboards coming on like clockwork in the evening.
March 13 will be remembered for a long time. Not because it was Friday the 13th but because that was when the first positive case of Covid-19 in the state was reported. It also marked the beginning of one of the darkest times in Sarawak and Malaysia’s modern history.
Soon after that, the Sarawak government took various measures to prevent the disease from spreading. The state’s border entry points were closed, public gatherings were banned, and a 14-day stay-home notice was issued for visitors or Sarawakians returning from overseas.
On March 17, Covid-19 claimed its first death in the state and the next day the federal government issued the movement control order (MCO). This was supposed to end tomorrow, but then the government decided to extend it till April 14.
Almost all shops are closed. Those that remain open sell essential goods or provide essential services.
Some eateries still operate but they are not allowed to have sit-down or dine-in customers. Their offerings are strictly takeaways.
For a nation of people who have been free to move about wherever and whenever they want, Malaysians have found the MCO hard to obey or get used to. Those who have not appreciated their freedom before, now suddenly get a taste of the partial loss of it. They are now looking at liberty from a new perspective. Let’s hope everybody take away something useful from the experience of being under a lockdown order.
Judging by media reports over the past few weeks, it has appeared that many people were ignorant or indifferent to the seriousness of the Covid-19 situation. In this age of almost instant information sharing on new media and traditional medium of communication, this is rather odd and even unacceptable. To date, a total of 110 individuals have been arrested by the police since March 25 for defying the MCO.
On the part of the state government, it did not want mass hysteria, so it has been very careful in crafting and putting out the relevant information. It did not want to (unwittingly) cause public fear. Yet, ironically, without a certain level of fear, Sarawak would head for its doom.
As of yesterday, the state has recorded a total of five fatalities and 118 positive cases.
In response to the crisis, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg on March 23 announced Sarawakku Sayang Special Aid Package containing 16 measures that hopefully could mitigate the impact of prolonged disruption to the economy of the state.
No one can predict when the war against the pandemic will be over. The disease has no outright cure and the invisible enemy is not easily detectable.
In the meantime, all we can do is keep on with social distancing outside our homes, wear face masks, wash our hands, and generally maintain good personal hygiene.
A big reminder: don’t get fed up. And most important of all, don’t give up. We must be patient and strong in order to fight on. This is not the time to be snowflakes.