#KitaJagaKita – Solidarity in Times of COVID-19 war
We are at war against a virus, the deadly COVID-19 virus. In any war, three things are crucial: people’s solidarity, dynamic deployment of personnel, and mobilisation of material resources and industrial capacity.
As a nation, we have a larger part to play, together. While I agree we have to stay home quietly, we can’t simply leave everything else to the authorities. We, the people, need to participate, albeit working from home. Without having to leave our home, we can still help our beloved country.
We are effectively fighting this war in the long haul with huge dislocations, economic and social costs, and other consequences. We must emphasise to every Malaysians that we are in this together and solidarity is what we need to bind us together in this war effort.
Malaysians should collectively adopt the #kitajagakita spirit in face of the challenges. Being at home doesn’t mean doing nothing because we’re helping the nation to prevent the spread of the virus. Many of us are working from home. Some, even go the extra mile to lend a helping hand to vulnerable groups within their respective communities.
This means the nation is alive and fighting. We’re not shutting down the country. The paternalistically themed “duduk diam-diam” framing should be replaced with #kitajagakita, bringing home the message of solidarity.
The Government must continuously communicate with the public that at what point Malaysia needs to tighten, even to further the MCO restrictions.
If the situation deteriorates, the public need to be informed what could be done together to prevent the slide to, for example, Scenario 3,000 cases or Scenario 5,000 cases or even Scenario 10,000 cases. Everyone has a stake in ensuring that we flatten the COVID-19 curve.
Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has just announced the extension of Movement Control Order by two weeks to 14th April 2020. Effectively we will be in a partial shutdown mode for another three more weeks with no guarantee whether that’s the final date or further lockdown.
Being transparent and candid is essential. The Government needs to share with Malaysians on what we can do together during this shutdown mode as well as during the reopening of the nation after 14th April.
We must be ready to enforce “dynamic deployment of personnel”. For instance, contact tracing is currently done by Health Ministry officers. At some point they should hand over most parts of the tracing work to the Police that may have to delegate additional other duties to the Armed Forces personnel.
If the lockdown is continued, what childcare support system is in place for healthcare workers? The healthcare workers may have to be placed at hostels or housed temporarily at hotels near hospitals which I saw some already been doing due to the long hours and the danger of spreading the virus to family members. Their children need others to look after.
As the crisis deepens, we depend more on government machineries. Government officers can stay home to work but the government must not shut down or operate in silos without connecting to the big picture.
So far, we are still taking a Health Ministry-centric approach. It’s time to mobilise all government machineries, and make sure that they operate in sync. The Government has allocated funds for the hiring of 2,000 medical personnel as well as recalling retired doctors and nurses. But that is not sufficient if we are heading towards Scenario 5,000 cases and beyond.
We need to inform the public that protecting the health workers is our No. 1 priority as they are our frontliners and without whom we won’t be able to fight this war. In a war, where there are frontliners there must be supplies, logistics and reservists to be mobilised, and to come forward to serve.
We must be prepared to hire many more health workers as well as to call for even more volunteers from among healthcare professions (HCP) and other forms of volunteerism that would help the fight. Training for volunteers and new hires should be provided now in anticipation of escalation in no time.
The Government needs to communicate a plan on how to integrate private hospitals, private clinics, military hospitals and all other medical resources available in a war-time manner.
For instance, the private hospitals and military hospitals can start Malaysia’s drive-through tests, as pioneered by the South Koreans. The doctors in these non-Health Ministry establishments need to know what to do next. Once the plan is clearly communicated, the nation knows how to maximise the impact of our finite medical resources.
At some point, the public should be asked to take care of their health in a wholesome way so that they can reduce the need to visit a hospital to compete for medical resources.
No war is won without the industries producing the ammunition. Much as winning a war is about the people fighting the war, it is also about the industrial capacity supporting the war. We need an efficient mobilisation of material resources and industrial capacity.
The United States became the victor in World War II very much because of its ability to turn all kinds of factories into producing ammunitions, ships and fighter planes within less than a year after the Pearl Harbour attack in 1941.
The current lockdown will be meaningless if we do not ramp up the Covid-19 tests to ascertain the number of people who are actually positive, and the asymptomatic carriers who may have no idea that they are spreading the virus.
Do we have enough testing kits? We will need to procure massively from overseas as well as try to produce locally as soon as we could.
If we were to go back to work on 15th April, we will need to have a massive number of protective masks. We can import but we must also try to produce domestically.
The same goes for personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitizers, ventilators, gloves, and all other medical devices. The factories should be operating at full speed with extra shifts, of course with the highest level of health screening and protection.
Most importantly, we need food. We need to ensure that our agriculture sector continues to produce food while the logistics sector continues to deliver them to the people. It is all about the supply chain.
All supply chain issues must be dealt with to prevent any shortages of food or sudden hike in prices which could, in turn, result in famine and social unrest.
Since we are in the long haul of sorts, we need to do more to deliver online education to students as well as to keep as much as possible online retail going on.
This is to enable the public to buy most of what they need in their daily lives while keeping the supply chain unbroken and keeping as many businesses and jobs as possible.
To ensure success, we need a whole-of-government and a whole-of-society approach which is still lacking at the moment. We need the solidarity of all Malaysians. This is what we mean by #kitajagakita.