By Dr Mahathir Mohamad
1. Whatever may be the cause of the present flare-up of the pandemic, what must be accepted is that dealing with it, attempting to reduce the number of new cases will cost a lot of money.
2. This pandemic is peculiar because it prevents normal work from being done. It requires people to distance themselves from each other. The necessary lockdown means no income and for many no food even. Yet the lockdown is perhaps the only way to prevent exposure to the virus and infection. And infection may mean death.
3. When we first experienced the attack, the whole country had to accept total movement control. There were no cars on the streets and no pedestrians. After one month we congratulated ourselves on the success of the measure. New cases numbered in two digits and death did not exceed ten.
4. We became over confident. We believed we knew how to manage the pandemic. And we held elections in Sabah. And since then, we have seen increases in the number of cases to frightening levels. At the peak there were more than 6,000 a day (May 19, 2021).
5. We did not learn anything. The month of Ramadan is the month of bazaars. Everybody enjoy the bazaars. Certainly many regard the bazaars as a means to make extra incomes. And the Muslims love the food that goes on sale at the bazaars.
6. I suppose the Government did not want to be unpopular by banning the bazaars. The Government must know that the crowds would be uncontrollable. And sure, enough as soon as the bazaars opened, the cases increased. From under 2000, the daily new cases shot up to more than 4000 a day. Panicked, the bazaars were suddenly banned.
7. It was a good example of flip flop that the people cannot accept. The food hawkers had bought the ingredients for their products for the whole month. Now they would lose all their money as there is no way for them to recover their capital.
8. Whatever may be the immediate cause of the spike the urgent need is still to reduce the number of new cases. We are definitely going to be short of bed, apparatus and even oxygen if the number doubles.
9. It is right to reintroduce the Movement Control Order (MCO). But now we are much less strict in doing so. We need to confine people to their homes. There should not be any excuse for crowds to form. Staying apart must be applied even among the frontliners.
10. Confining people at home means they will have no money and no food.
11. The Government must accept the responsibility of keeping people alive. For food there should be public kitchens where food is prepared, packaged and delivered to the homes.
12. It is important that the quarantined people should not come out to collect the food at the kitchens. This will cause crowds to gather. Couriers should be recruited to deliver the food to the houses. There should be no contact between the delivery boys and the householders.
13. Hotel kitchens should be utilised to prepare and package the food. The home quarantine should be for at least one month. The police and the military should be very strict in ensuring the people don’t come out to shop or do anything.
14. The cost must be borne by the Government. It will be costly but the Government must do it.
15. Vaccination must be speeded up. We should accept whatever vaccine that has been used in other countries extensively. A special effort must be made to get kampung people to be vaccinated.
16. Masks must be worn, and hands washed all the time. Frequent tests should be carried out to ensure all infected people are identified and quarantined.
17. In many countries even the first jab of vaccines can help reduce the number of new cases. But even those who had the vaccines need to be tested again and again.
18. The Government claims it has finished more than 600 billion Ringgit in the fight against the pandemic. If so we should have the capacity to deal with the pandemic. But obviously we have not. We must know why. 600 billion Ringgit is a lot of money. It is not easy to spend that money in such a short space of time.
19. We have to be serious about the fight against COVID-19. If not we are going to see a lot of people die who could have been saved.
THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
By Dr Mahathir Mohamad