THAT Malaysia has to restrict movements of all residents for the next two weeks is understandable considering the spike in Covid-19 infections these past few days.
A total of 315 positively identified infections these past two days make up more than half of the total 553 cases to date since January 24 when the coronavirus hit Malaysian shores.
But questions abound from Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s televised remarks last night. And answers are in short supply.
In other words, the new prime minister and his team appear to have fumbled the announcement of this unprecedented lockdown in Malaysian history, not seen since the Emergency imposed after the May 13 riots in 1969.
Here is what we know about the restricted movements from March 18 to 31.
* All companies and government departments are shut unless part of essential services;
* One can leave one’s home, if one works in an essential service or needs to use that essential service;
* Restaurants cannot serve customers but can open for delivery services. But if you don’t have delivery services, you are not allowed to open or serve dine-in customers;
* No overseas travel;
* No wedding feasts and funerals are presumably small scale to avoid crowds;
* No religious activities at all houses of worship, including Friday prayers. All religious activities are banned;
* Transportation of goods are allowed although people are not allowed to leave the country;
* All educational facilities are to be closed. All examinations postponed.
That is pretty much clear.
What is not clear is a lot more issues than just this. How do all the multinational corporations (MNCs) and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in export-oriented industries operate?
What about those working in either Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand where we share land borders? Particularly Singapore.
What about parents who have to work and have nowhere to leave their children for care? All childcare centres, kindergartens, schools and such are closed.
What about those who have actually taken their school holidays now?
What about hotel guests? What do hotels do from tomorrow?
How about those on holiday back in Malaysia and have to travel back to work elsewhere in the next two weeks? Are they restricted in Malaysia and also in self-quarantine when they return to their place of work abroad?
The answers, if any, will only be available after noon today when the government hotline opens for business.
Meanwhile, people particularly in urban areas, are buying everything they can because of panic over the movement controls. They have been crowding all shops, supermarkets, hypermarkets, wet markets and such.
That will probably lead to more infections later, the very thing this movement control is trying to avoid.
One can only hope the next two weeks will allow the public health service to stock up and prepare itself for more infections. The two weeks is either a breather for all, or the incubation for more.
Some politicians in this government said they wanted to save Malaysia. But who will save us from incompetent people dishing out orders without thinking those measures through?
Meanwhile, stay safe, stay healthy and stay at home. – March 17, 2020.
* Jahabar Sadiq runs The Malaysian Insight.