Hi, It has been awhile since we last saw each other in person.
How’s life under quarantine treating you?
It’s Day 85 for Malaysia’s lockdown.
Having attained good results from its lockdown measures and excellent work done by the medical front-liners, Malaysia is going into Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) today until 31 August 2020. This is a further relaxation of lockdown regulations since Conditional Movement Control Order came into effect 4 May 2020 which by itself had been a further deregulation from the strict measures of Movement Control Order implemented on 18 March 2020 to curb the spread of the deadly infectious coronavirus.
Everyone is certainly happy with the further relaxation of lockdown regulations which allows many more businesses to operate under strict standard operating procedures for social distancing, and more freedom of movement for its residents. Only large gatherings, sports events, contact sports, massage services, nightclubs, theme parks and karaoke centers, are still prohibited. Interstate travel ban is finally lifted which certainly brings great joy to many restless souls like us. With hair salons and barbers allowed to legally operate again, Malaysians can all look neat and trendy again on their social media feed.
We ourselves really want to start traveling again at least within the country until outbound travel ban is lifted (and maybe when travel quarantine requirements are relaxed at international destinations).
Our ‘release’ also means us having to face the poor economic outlook the Covid-19 pandemic has left us with. It is bleak for us, just like the other countries around the world – many of which are still in quarantine and curfews with higher infection cases.
Many Malaysian businesses – small, medium and large – have had to shutdown as the pandemic delivered its final crushing blow on their limited finances in an already challenging business environment in recent years. The whole economy now needs to be rebooted effectively to keep surviving businesses afloat. People want to get busy again especially day laborers who have been forced to depend on charity throughout the lockdown.
Though its a great to go out and about freely without worry of a stiff fine from the authorities, we are facing air and noise pollution once again as more and more people take to the streets, and business operations revive. During strict lockdown, the air in the urban areas were cleaner and fresher. We enjoyed our casual strolls to the supermarkets and morning markets to get our groceries and essentials. There had been little road traffic to stir up dust and dirt, or to throttle more carbon monoxide fumes in the environment. There were fewer indiscriminate rubbish dumping by irresponsible motorists which helped road sweepers to keep the roads, drains and pavements tidy for longer. Garbage collectors were more diligent with their collection. With restricted public movement, factories operations closed, and construction works halted, environmental organizations reported on cleaner beaches, sea water and rivers that meander through urban areas.
With all non-essential businesses halted during the MCO period, we will certainly miss not having to pay for parking. Shopping malls and public parking spots were free of charge and there were plenty of parking spaces available near the entrance. There were no irate drivers or road traffic congestion to deal with (unless one took the wrong road leading to a police roadblock) but there were still drivers with poor ethics and etiquette on the road – you know those that drive at slow speeds in the middle of an empty road preventing you from overtaking, turning or switching lanes suddenly without indicating, those that park indiscriminately blocking other cars from passing, etc.
As Malaysians eases into the ‘new normal’ life in the time of coronavirus and worry on when a proven vaccine is ready and on how long the recession will last, there is also the impending concern on the good ethical governing of the country (and its coffers). UMNO, the old ruling party seized back governing power (under a new coalition, Perikatan Nasional, with Malaysian United Indigenous Party and Malaysian Islamic Party) just one month before the entire nation had to be placed into the coronavirus lockdown. With the return of a political party with past and present members having a poor track record of corrupt practices, kleptocracy, cronyism, race-based preferential policies, and playing the race-religion politics to divide the country, there is certainly a worry on the future, in particular, for the ‘minorities’. Two high profile court cases on big value corruption and money laundering charges linked to 1MDB and logging concessions have surprisingly been acquitted or maybe unsurprising for this returning ruling party. For the moment, reports on new unscrupulous activities are low or maybe just laying dormant in these dire times. Life after lockdown for Malaysians who voted for and received a cleaner, transparent and fairer government will be more dreary.
While many of us have the power and the responsibility to curb the spread of Covid-19, the regular good Malaysian can’t prevent corruption or corrupt individuals from infecting the country further. The elites have too much influence, and greed (and power) is never satisfied.
Post lockdown blues.