When there doesn’t seem to be a plan

THE government has decided to tighten standard operating procedure (SOP) to curb the rising numbers of cases that we are seeing every day. While many were expecting a lockdown to be imposed, this has not been the case, but it should be welcomed as a lockdown would devastate the economy and subsequently the livelihoods of the people.

However, the enhanced SOP do not seem to be well thought-out or even give the impression of being effective. In fact, they raise more questions than answers.

A simple case in point. Retail and food outlets now have reduced operating hours. The rationale for this is that it will reduce congestion and that there would be no movement after 8pm.

A child would be able to tell you that the virus has no concept of time and also that reduced hours mean there would actually be increased movement as more people would visit within fewer hours.

With more people working from home, that would also mean more people would go out to get groceries and essential items at the same time. 

Perhaps a more effective approach would be to limit the number of people entering a premise at any given time rather than reducing operating hours.  Some retail outlets already practice this while others don’t.

MCO extended until May 12: Muhyiddin | Daily Express Online - Sabah's  Leading News Portal

It is not uncommon to find people gathered inside convenience stores and, more importantly, food stalls and night markets without any social distancing. So perhaps SOP requiring every outlet to comply to this would be more effective, especially at markets and pasar malam.

More importantly, with the reduced operating hours, pray tell how front liners are now supposed to get food after 8pm? Or those that start work before 8am, especially factory and shift workers? This was a problem back in MCO 1.0 as well.

The learned Minister also emphasised self-discipline.  Well and good, and also a very important point. However, the general public seems to feel that double standards are being practiced where celebrities and high powered individuals who have allegedly not complied to SOP as seen on social media, still seem to get away or just blatantly ignored while common folk are heavily penalised.

Are you telling us that the virus is class-and status-conscious? There is a well-known aphorism that goes “not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.” Sadly, we are not seeing this.

We are more than a year into this pandemic yet the same play book seems to be used. There is nothing new. No new ideas and the same mistakes do not seem to be rectified. 

Announcements are made to prepare for an announcement tomorrow. When the actual announcement is made, SOP are not ready and will be imparted by the relevant ministry. Why is this so? It has been said so many times before to prepare everything in advance and make a coordinated announcement that will cover all bases and angles. 

Yet, this is still not being done.  Just like with every other MCO, CMCO, RMCO, EMCO or announcement regarding tightening of SOP, we are told that the SOP will be announced later.

Are you all not working to get things in order before announcements are made? This has been happening time and again yet nothing seems to change. 

It is rather apparent that past experiences and learnings are not being taken into account to improve things.

Where are the plans moving forward? What if the tightening of SOP does not reduce the numbers? For the senior minister to say on National TV that we will just keep on going in circles and impose strict measures, then relax them when things improve, and then revert again to strict measures once things worsen is nothing short of foolishness.

We have been down that path and we know it doesn’t work. You can’t keep trying to reinvent the wheel. You need a plan, and a concrete plan at that.

What about taking into account those that have been vaccinated? Are they subject to the same restrictions? Would it not make sense to give leeway to those that have been vaccinated to go to work or to travel?

It was already mentioned that restrictions can be relaxed once herd immunity is achieved at 50%. Why not extend that to those that have already received the vaccine?

It is clearly traceable through MySejahtera.

As for the numbers. We know that numbers are going up because testing is being accelerated. There is a school of thought that says that the workplace is where most of the transmissions are happening. Yet, many of those in industry claim that it is actually workplace testing that is identifying the infections and that transmission is actually happening elsewhere, after working hours.

If this is the actual case, then what is the plan to address this? This begets another question. If most people are now working from home, there will be reduced testing at the workplace and hence numbers will fall but is the true situation? Or are we simply trying to fool ourselves?

There are so many other questions and it is rather clear that the powers that be do not have a clear plan of action. It’s when there doesn’t seem to be a plan that it gets to be really worrying for all of us.

By : Dharm Navaratnam – The Malaysian Insight

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