We should behave like it is 20,000 cases daily

JANUARY 11 — One of the reasons we managed to “flatten the curve” between April and June last year was because the country was made to behave as if the daily positive numbers were 10,000 instead of the actual 200.

Everyone in the country can surely still recall the “martial law” conditions with police cars patrolling almost every street around 10pm, shops closing early, strict no dine-in rules, the empty roads, the general avoidance of crowds of more than half a dozen people, etc. 

Most importantly, we can recall the fear each day when the numbers rose even a tad above 200.

Today? Even if it’s 2,000, everyone is making party and holiday plans. Nowadays we are literally eating in a packed restaurant while nonchalantly checking our phones, seeing “2,100 cases”, and then acting as if nothing happened.

The paradox is that between March and June 2020 most Malaysians were psychologically at 10,000 daily cases (even though the actual rate was 200) but since September or thereabouts, we started behaving as if our daily numbers were 200 even though in fact they were fast rising above 1,000 and hitting 2,000.

To say Malaysians got lax and complacent is the understatement of 2020.

So here’s a friendly tip for everyone: Let’s begin to think and act as if the numbers are at USA or Italy levels

Let’s hypothetically assume we wake up tomorrow and the Health DG says it’s 21,560 positive cases, that mass graves need to be dug, that all new infected cases will be turned away from hospitals and even clinics no questions asked, that even RM1million can’t buy an ICU slot.

And then act accordingly.

Strictly speaking, this isn’t new. I could be wrong, but I think it happens all the time in situations where high-impact and high-fatality events can occur “just like that.”

Eg, in airports I suspect (or hope!) that every security guard is on alert to the possibility that any one of the passengers and guests in the airport could be a terrorist. 

The point is, these people take nothing — absolutely nothing — for granted. For the best of them, psychologically, they’ve already “living in” the worst-case scenario (or as if such a scenario is imminent).

To repeat, for each and every one of us, we need to imagine ourselves facing a daily positive case count of 20,000. Maybe this way we’ll start seeing this like the nation-destroying pandemic it threatens to be.

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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