People are wondering what happened to the Minister of Health? He should be out in front providing information, cajoling citizens to stay indoors, appealing for their co-operation to fight this deadly Covid-19.
No sooner the warm water that he recommended as treatment for the virus had cooled down, he disappeared from the news and the TV screen – thankfully!
The so-called Senior Minister, who is the Defence Minister, Ismail Sabri, is in the news almost daily talking about the Movement Control Order (MCO) telling people about social distancing, ordering them to stay indoors, etc.
His latest announcement which came into effect yesterday declared. “Only one person would be allowed to travel in a car effective April 1.
“But as mentioned earlier, when using a personal car, you are allowed to purchase groceries and what-not but it will be limited to one person per car,” he told a Press conference in Putrajaya.
While it is appreciated that stringent measures are necessary to contain this virus, we must not forsake our commonsense. We must be ever ready to foresee certain problems and difficulties arising from the implementation of this policy.
If he had – and he should have – followed the sensible comments made by citizens after reading the report on one person in one car in Malaysiakini (30-3-2020), he would have realized that there are genuine concerns to be addressed. It is such feedback that actually helps the policy to be sensible and caring.
But up to now, the minister has not responded. Doesn’t he have a responsibility to be accountable to the people? He has remained like the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand: hearing nothing.
For his benefit, let me briefly list the points raised by the citizens below:
· I can’t drive and I need my husband to drive me around. I’m the one who does the groceries and pays for them because I can’t trust my husband to do it. So now how?
· My wife works in the hospital. Her colleague sends her to work while I go and pick her up after work. I rather pick her up than let her take public transport. What now?
· My wife and I work together. Do we have to go in separate cars?
· My wife works in a hospital and does not drive. I go and pick her up after work. How now?
· What about parents with disabled or mentally challenged children? How to leave them alone at home? What about taking a family member to hospital for their appointment? What about caregivers driving a sick or injured family member to clinic or hospital? Or does the infirm have to drive or walk to see their doctors.
· In Germany, a gathering of up to 2 persons is allowed.
· … but at least allow another family member in the car to help buying groceries while the driver is waiting in the car. That will speed up the buying process and get home fast.
· During such time need to save costs and car pool with a neighbour or ferry a family member to help carrying some items.
· Two in a car is much more sensible. Some staff of mine do not drive, depending on their husbands to ferry them. How?
· If bosses are allowed to be driven around, then what is wrong in having a wife being driven by her husband.
· My wife does not drive. Both of us are in the 70s. What if she falls sick and I have to drive her to the clinic/hospital. How to show proof when there is no appointment card or hospital recommendations since the wife happens to fall sick in the house?
· Mr Minister has no idea that supermarkets have suspended their grocery online capability since the start of MCO, leaving the Rakyat no choice but to leave home to buy groceries in person. Mr Minister, please advise the Rakya texactly which major supermarket chains are providing online shopping services.
· Note that it applies to privately-owned cars. So company bosses /VIP with drivers are exempted! This is double standard and not based on health grounds.You mean to say husband and wife pose more health risks to each other compared to boss and his driver?
· Better if two adults (no children) are allowed to move about. Maybe can perform multiple tasks faster, less time spent outside.
· The problem is very real. My wife is an OKU and she is a Dialysis Patient. I have to take her to the hospital for dialysis 3 times a week. So with your ruling, how?Please clarify immediately. One person per car, you will create the inconvenience of finding parking and car congestion.
· Does this Government think things through?
· …Please think … Please gather feedback
From the above comments, it is absolutely clear a rethink of the policy is necessary. There has to be a leeway out of necessity. The Minister must resolve these practical problems to make lives easier and better during these difficult times. Will he?
Another compelling problem, shortage of food, needs his immediate attention. Cash is King for those who have the means to buy whatever they wish or want. They are in a position to go on a buying binge, thus denying and depriving those with little means to buy anything. There is no restriction on how much one can purchase.
I can’t help thinking that this laissez-fare policy is helping the rich and the well-to-do citizens to the detriment of the poor. Driving to the supermarket, buying on line –if possible – the uncontrolled volume of purchase, space in the boot to load all your merchandise, etc. are privileges of the rich. They will get by.
But what about the poor and their lot? What thought had been spared for them?Even a simple necessity like bread is not available from the shops and supermarkets. This item is swept clean by the rich. Another item: eggs – they are hard to come by according to published reports.
Why can’t we limit the volume of purchase? After fruitlessly foraging for bread, I came across a stall. Only three loaves were left. I took two, but the stall-keeper gently told me, “Sorry, uncle only one loaf per person.”
Two things struck me – that I had selfishly wanted to buy two loaves when it would take me at least another three days before I would start consuming the second one. I didn’t need the second loaf immediately. I felt ashamed of myself.
The other thing that struck me was how caring the stall-keeper was for the needs of the other customers. He could have allowed – two others were before me as I was alighting from my car – who could have taken all the five loaves, if not for his caring attitude. He could have easily got rid of the loaves fast by not imposing a restriction. But he cared.
I thanked him for controlling the purchase so that others will also have a chance to buy as well.
This is what the Minister should be paying attention to. Instead, he is making life miserable for us who find it necessary to travel two in a car.
Let’s hear from him whether the points raised by the readers are justified and what he is going to do about it. We await his response.
2 April 2020
(The views expressed are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of Rebuilding Malaysia.)