Are We Just Going To Wait For The Vaccines To Arrive


On the last day of 2020, Malaysia recorded its highest daily case of Covid-19 with 2,525 cases. It was a poetic end to a year that has brought much misery and bad news to the world, and to the nation as a whole. But more bad news followed in 2021.
On Jan 4, the culminating Covid-19 positive cases in Malaysia breached the 120,000-mark. It was also reported that Covid-19 related deaths went beyond 500, with eight more deaths reported on Jan 5. In total, in the first five days of 2021, 38 people have died due to the coronavirus.
All these numbers make for very grim reading. To think, that just a few months ago we were well on the road to recovery, with zero local infections in the middle of 2020. Where did it all go wrong?
This ‘third wave’ of the pandemic shows no sign of subsiding. Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah was reported to have said that our health facilities are almost at maximum capacity.
The Health Ministry is now considering allowing patients without symptoms to self-quarantine at home, instead of the hospital or treatment centres.
At the same time, the restrictions previously put in place are being loosened. Inter-state travel has been allowed, schools and education institutions are allowed to reopen and there are no longer any restrictions in the number of people travelling in a car or sitting in an eatery. Almost all economic sectors have been allowed to operate.
Ironically, the SOPs put in place during the early months of the pandemic were tighter when our numbers were relatively low.
Undeniably, there are many pros and cons when it came to the loosening of the restrictions and the resumption of the economic sectors.
The movement control order (MCO) and subsequent conditional (MCO) in various part of the country had a devastating effect on many businesses, and with it, the severe financial impact on people.

Yet at the same time, the government's aid to people has not been enough or ha been too slow. As a result, many had to rely on their own retirement savings through the Employees Provident Fund (EPF).
The balancing act between reviving the economy and containing the virus is one which many countries have had to grapple with, and ours is no different. Yet, it would appear that the government is taking a lackadaisical attitude towards the growing Covid-19 cases in this third wave.
It was ‘business as usual’ for the government, apart from the daily briefings about how many people have been arrested and the occasional appearance of the prime minister in his now tired sounding and unexciting ‘special addresses’. 
These ‘special addresses’ have become increasingly routine, without any new information for the people.
The government had claimed credit before this that they had managed to steer the country through the pandemic. We were told that although this was not a government we voted for, it was a government that cared for us.
Inspired by this, the nation came together the second wave was contained, and the numbers were brought down. The government could no longer make the same claim. 
And many would actually blame the government’s poor handling of the third wave for the rise in cases over the last few months. SOPs were changed at the drop of a hat, as frequently as the defence minister changed the colour of his shirt for his daily briefings.
Is the government only going to wait until the vaccine arrives in Malaysia, purportedly in February? Is that the plan for the country, to hope for the best until the vaccines are available?
Many have commented that even with the arrival of the vaccine, it would be months before it would be made available to the public and for the rollout to have a significant impact on the populace.
Surely, we need a short term and long-term plan to deal with the pandemic until the vaccines are rolled out en masse?
Does the government even have a plan?

The government must quickly assuage the people that they still have a handle on the situation. They must come clean with the people about how the virus will be contained and how the nation will cope with the rising numbers. They must show that something is being done before it is too late.

SYAHREDZAN JOHAN is a civil liberties lawyer and political secretary to Iskandar Puteri MP Lim Kit Siang. - Mkini

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of MMKtT.

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