COVID-19 is one big setback that we have to face not only as Malaysians but as an international community. How we work to support each other and make each other survive is so important now. It is also a time where we see how many are ignorant towards the world, and how it tests our patience in facing a crisis.
I am not writing about the health challenges as I am not a qualified health expert. I wouldn’t suggest to people to drink warm water to prevent COVID-19, but drinking water as a benefit for our overall well-being. Better to avoid myself claiming myths or facts that were not verified.
But as a person who is operating a business, a Malaysian and a global citizen, I foresee that the challenges that we face in this COVID-19 pandemic is not only about health issues. It is far more than a health hazard.
The immediate problems that we face are related to the economy. Even before when the government announced the Movement Control Order or lockdown in some countries, we are already seeing a drop in business. People are coming out less, which means lesser business transactions, smaller cash flow and slower economy.
When the Movement Control Order was announced, our whole economy became almost stagnant. There is no cash flow. Only the food, grocery, general necessities and medical industry survives. And even that is done in a mess which presents even a more dangerous situation towards higher possibility of infections.
It is simple to think about how our economy is affected. We just have to imagine how we live in our life.
We are not allowed to travel and go for holidays, the travel industry stops. Airline, bus operators, taxis, tour guides, tourists spots, souvenir shops have to stop their services.
We have to stay at home, meaning we will reduce the usage of our cars and motorcycles which also limits the usage of petrol. Imagine, our nation’s main resources come from petrol and how it influences the rest of the economic ecosystem. Nobody buys new cars at this period, and even the car repair shops are affected.
We cannot be doing our usual shopping as the malls are closed. All shops that are not selling necessities like clothes, watches, toys, stationeries, tech and many others are affected.
The service industry of hairstyling, make-ups, massage parlours, tour guides have to stop operating.
It might be a bit controversial, but the liquor and tobacco industry which is a significant contributor to the economy has to stop as well.
And these are just a small fraction of examples of industries affected, in fact, the affected businesses are so huge out there.
But think about it, despite losing revenues, the businesses still have to continue to pay for their monthly rental, salaries and utilities. How many businesses can last during this period without any revenue?
Some might have thought it only affects the business, but when businesses face closure, then comes the issue of unemployment. Loss of jobs will create even more debts.
What are the government’s steps to reduce the economic damage that will happen post-COVID-19?
The ignorance of the people is also a disaster to our world.
People who do not care about the seriousness of the epidemic. People who do not take the necessary precautions to reduce the spreading of the virus. People who do not scan for the possible infection when they are feeling ill. People who still attend big events despite the rise of the infected victims. Thousands of people attended a concert by a Welsh band, Stereophonics in the United Kingdom on March 13, 14 and 15, when the epidemic was already in a serious situation.
In social media and everywhere, people are sharing myths and unverified facts about COVID-19. Untrue information about infected people and places creates unnecessary fear to the people at large. Unverified ways of curing and preventing COVID-19 from infecting humans is making us more vulnerable. Worse is that this is done by a Health Minister who is also a medical practitioner.
A Twitter account which is believed to be one of a Deputy Minister then tweeted that “The probability of dying from coronavirus is 1%, while the possibility of dying at any moment is 100%”. That comes from a Deputy Minister who is supposed to show care and love for their people.
It makes it so difficult to blame the irresponsible Malaysians when we have such leaders at helm in the government.
Despite all the negativity, fear and panic, there is still a bright side to it. We are lucky to have a competent Director-General of Health, Noor Hisham Abdullah to deal with this whole situation. So far, he has dealt with matters in a professional and calm manner with evidence and data to support his case.
There are also kind Malaysians working together to assist the poor and disabled to get their basic necessities. Malaysians remind each other to stay safe, stay indoors and send as much positive vibes as possible.
This is not a time to argue who is leading the government, or who is a traitor, or who is overthrowing who. But everyone should really work together to prevent COVID-19 from spreading further, with the assistance of the medical staff to cure the infected ones.
And the current Government must prepare for the events of post-COVID-19. How will we counter the economic slowdown, create job opportunities for those who have lost it, assist crumbling businesses and bring up affected industries again. It should be planned now and not after the pandemic ends.
This article is published in Kwong Wah Yit Poh in Chinese dated 24 March 2020.