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To say that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live is an understatement.
The outbreak not only triggered a series of government-imposed lockdowns and restricted movement orders around the world, it has also sparked fear and uncertainty among people as well.
While the primary concern in our minds will always be about finances and the availability of supplies, there are still other questions that bother us:
“When will this end?”
“Is it still safe out there?”
A week into Malaysia’s Movement Control Order (MCO)
The MCO has been in place in Malaysia for a week as of today.
Back at home, Malaysians are advised to only head out to buy supplies if absolutely necessary. Several roadblocks have been set up by the police to monitor public movement during the MCO period, assisted by the Malaysian Armed Forces.
At the airport and border checkpoints, things are said to be much quieter. This is because the MCO states that no Malaysian is allowed to leave the country, and no foreign tourists are allowed in during this period.
On the surface, it seems as if the whole country has come to a standstill – what with the little traffic on the roads and only a few people out and about.
The total opposite is probably happening in the hospitals and the Health Director-General’s office. Medical staff are scrambling to care for both confirmed and suspected cases – some have reportedly worked for 24 hours. Hospitals are also running out of personal protective equipment as we speak.
“Life will never be the same again after COVID-19”
Many news portals – international and local – have published commentaries that say the world will forever be changed after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Global economy will take some time to recover. Healthcare systems around the world will probably go through some changes to be more prepared for the next pandemic, should there be any. We might become more reliant on digital services like e-commerce and cashless payment methods.
And hopefully, we will learn to be more grateful for the things we enjoy.
A reminder of all the little things we took for granted
We don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone. Freedom is like that. It’s like air. When you have it, you don’t notice it.Boris Yeltsin, First President of Russia
Personally, I think nothing describes our situation more aptly than the quote above.
Don’t get me wrong – we still enjoy freedom. The MCO does allow us to head out when necessary, but it does change our life pattern a lot.
Our freedom of movement
About two months ago, we barely thought twice about heading out for window shopping, or to catch up with friends and family over a meal. Going out seems so ‘natural’ and so convenient – what with public transportation and ride-hailing apps like Grab.
As of late last month, some of us start to seriously consider the need to go out – especially if it is to crowded places – out of fear of being infected with the virus. Fast forward to last week when the MCO started, I think it is safe to say that most of us have not stepped out of our home compound for days.
Our ‘borderless’ experience
Holding a Malaysian passport gives us a lot of privilege that many other nationalities could only dream of. Our passport is said to be the 13th most powerful one in the world, giving us visa-free access to 176 countries.
Our experience with international travelling can be described as almost ‘borderless’. Entry requirements like the Electronic Travel Authority as well as visas (if any) are easily attainable, going overseas is only a flight away – provided you have enough funds to do so, of course.
Many countries, including our own, have started to close their borders to curb the spread of the virus. The move is unprecedented and almost unheard of, especially since these countries are not in any state of war or internal conflict.
Our time with our family
To lose a loved one is heartbreaking enough under normal circumstances – but more so during an outbreak.
A Malaysian netizen described the burial of a deceased COVID-19 patient as “a lonely death”: family members were not allowed to be with the deceased in their last moments; nor were they allowed to perform funeral rituals such as bathing the body or perform funeral prayers near it.
The netizen also described COVID-19 as “a lonely illness” as friends and family are not allowed to be near any patient due to its contagious nature. The same applies to those under quarantine.
Malaysians who are working in other states and countries are also separated from their family members, since the MCO strongly discourages inter-state travelling to break the chain of infection.
For those of us who are fortunate enough to endure the MCO together with our family members – all these should act as a reminder of how blessed we are to still have our loved ones close to us.
Our own home
Some Malaysians still have to sleep rough during the MCO.
While most of us can stay home and protect ourselves during the MCO, the same cannot be said for the homeless of Malaysia. Not only are they exposed to the virus, the suspension of a few soup kitchens during this period also means that they barely have access to food these days.
Thankfully, a few non-government organisations and Malaysians have come together to continue to feed the homeless. Some of them have also been moved to a temporary shelter, but many are still on the streets.
And yet, there are still those who openly defy the MCO despite having a home of their own to stay safe in.
We can get through this together
All of us have a part to play in fighting this virus.
Scientists scramble to find a cure and vaccine as fast as they can; while medical staff work around the clock to treat patients. The least all of us can do is to practise good personal hygiene and stay home during the MCO period.
While we are at it, maybe we can start appreciating the things we have and spend quality time with the ones that matter most to us.
I have an unhealthy obsession with chocolate, gummy candy, and "Confucius says" jokes.