Dr Jeniri Amir

It is not an exaggeration to say that we are facing a life and death situation at the moment. 

In fact we are at war. Yes, with the number of positive Covid-19 cases increasing in the country.

More than 240,000 people have now been confirmed with the coronavirus globally while almost 10,000 have died since the virus was first detected in Wuhan, China in December 2019.

Surely we don’t want to follow Italy’s footsteps where people are contracting the virus and dying of it, more rapidly than anywhere else. Italy has been hardest hit outside China. As more than 150 countries are grappling and engulfed in the pandemic, how did China turn the tide against the disease?

Either you interpret that phrase mentioned earlier literally or metaphorically, l hope you take the movement control order (MCO) announced by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin seriously. There is no two ways about it.

Sadly, based on reports and videos that l received from my WhatsApp groups, some seemed to take it indifferently and irresponsibly.  These people are simply apathetic, insouciant, pococurante, hard-hearted or nonchalant. What we call here in Sarawak, sik apa attitude. This bunch of idiots are actually self-serving, heedless and careless, and it is aggravated with so many fake news that create unnecessary repercussions. This is not the time to play with fire. We are facing a time bomb.

There are still people who are enjoying their breakfast and mi kolok at eateries in Sarawak.

We should not take MCO lightly lest we want to see the statistics shooting up dramatically. 

The virus has claimed the country’s first two victims, including one from Sarawak.  But why are we still taking it for granted? Maybe some of us haven’t realised that Malaysia has the highest number of cases in Southeast Asia with 1,030 positive cases?

Some take it for granted as if we are facing a normal situation.  To these recalcitrant individuals, it’s business as usual. To this group of people, l would like to say: We don’t have to wait until we reach a critical situation as faced by Italy before we take action.

We need to bear in mind that Italy’s death toll from the pandemic has surpassed the number from China. The number of people dying from coronavirus in Italy rose by 475 in one day on Wednesday — the biggest increase since the outbreak.

According to international media reports, of the 41,035 confirmed coronavirus patients in Italy, 3,405 so far have died — an increase of 427 in the last 24 hours.

By contrast China has almost twice as many cases — 81,155 in all, but with 3,245 fatalities. Yes, it’s very scary.  In short, Italy has seen a steep rise in deaths and there is no sign of abating as yet.

The situation has aggravated.

To put the whole thing into perspective, the crematorium has started operating 24 hours, coffins have filled up two hospital morgues and lined up inside a church cemetery. 

According to The Washington Post, people are being picked up in ambulances, rushed to the hospital and dying in sealed-off wards where even their closest relatives are not allowed to visit. The paper reported many funerals are taking place with only a priest and a funeral home employee present, while family members face restrictions on gatherings, remain in quarantine or are too sick themselves.

So many have died that there is a waiting list for burials and cremations.  Morgues and health institutions are collapsing. It’s as if a chemical bomb had exploded.

In Bergamo, obituaries fill the newspaper but survivors mourn alone. Up to 11 pages are filled with obituaries from the normal one-and-a-half pages.

“The people who are dying, memorialised in page after page of L’Eco di Bergamo, are ex-politicians, electricians, emergency phone operators, priests. Most are in their 70s or 80s,” the paper reported.

It said: “Their short obituaries don’t mention the cause of death but don’t need to — 90 percent, the newspaper’s editor estimated, died because of the coronavirus. Instead, the obituaries have other clues about how much grieving has changed during the emergency.

They mention “direct transport to the crematorium.” A public ceremony at a “date to be determined.” A funeral held in a “strictly private form,” the paper added. But why have so many coronavirus patients died in Italy, a country of 61 million people as compared with other countries?

Many countries have taken drastic measures, including total lockdown, social distancing and cancelling major events, to help slow transmission and reduce pressure on health systems. 

People have been asked to stay indoors, including in Malaysia but unfortunately out of ego or negligence, quite a number defied the order.

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Sabri Yaakob was reported as saying the level of compliance as of two days ago was some 60-70 percent only.

He said the government might resort to mobilising the army if the level of compliance remained at that level to ensure the people’s compliance with the MCO.

This comes as authorities repeatedly pleaded with the public to stay at home with the message: “Please help us to help you. Stay at home.”

Yet to some, this fell on deaf ears. It seems the government has no choice now. Yesterday, the government said it was deploying the army this Sunday to boost enforcement.

Please stay at home. That’s the main objective of implementing the MCO since Wednesday, otherwise it defeats the real purpose if you take the opportunity to balik kampung, eat openly and defy the order.

If you have no business to go out, just stay home. Is it too difficult to stay home without any mi jawa, mi kolok, teh tarik and roti canai for just 14 days? Can’t we make sacrifices just for our own sake and for the country? Or is it asking too much from our citizens?

We really want to contain the spread of this virus. That’s the purpose why the government has decided to implement a nationwide restriction of movement until March 31.

This order is enforced under the Control and Prevention of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 and the Police Act 1967. Under the MCO, complete restriction of movement and assembly nationwide, including religious activities, sports, social and cultural events are imposed.

It is not just the responsibility of the government to ensure that this order is adhered to, but all of us have to do our part.

 Of course, we don’t want the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus pandemic spreading around the globe to also explode here.

We also want to avoid a total lockdown. Nobody wants this measure to be imposed because it creates a lot of problems. But what choice do we have if there is a need to do so?

Honestly, we do not have much choice if we want to curb the spread of Covid-19 in Malaysia. We have to take the bull by the horns.

However, as Muhyiddin said: “These measures are necessary in combating the virus, which may still threaten the lives of our people. We have unfortunately witnessed a sharp rise in the number of cases affecting other countries in a very short time. Naturally we do not wish to see such similar developments take place in our country.”

Therefore, if you do not have any business to be outside, please stay at home before it is too late. I believe all of us don’t want the government to take drastic measures by extending the restricted movement order or worse still, implementing a total lockdown.

We are at war. Failure is not an option. Like it or not, we have to win this war. We can’t afford to lose in this war. 

In order to win the war in curbing the dramatic increase in the number of positive cases and deaths, we have to play our role as responsible citizens by staying at home.

This is not ordinary time and business as usual. There is no point to cry over spilt milk when the situation comes to a crisis like in Italy.

I hope we don’t have to face a collective tragedy. As a matter of fact, the virus knows no boundaries. All of us are bound to be affected if we have a lackadaisical attitude and take things for granted. 

Now we have a powerful tool to curb and limit the spread of the killer virus.

Yes, it is social distancing, meaning staying at least one metre away from people, avoiding gatherings and crowds.

It takes overall public health awareness and response to tackle this problem.

The onus is now on us to ensure we win the war and contain the dramatic increase of new Covid-19 positive cases.