People will go hungry again this MCO

JANUARY 20 — You would think after going through a movement control order (MCO), a conditional MCO (CMCO) and a recovery MCO (RMCO) we would have gotten this sort-of, but-not-quite, lockdown thing down pat, right?

Wrong.

We were given days to anticipate an announcement. Sure, most of us knew what was coming — it was obvious with the rising numbers.

Weeks before I had already stocked my pantry and fridge as well as bought enough pet food for the next couple of months.

Yet when the announcement was made, it was scant on details. No SOPs prepared, no news on whether there would be any kind of financial safety net for those affected.

The SOPs were scattered and we had one minister even announce them on his blog and not the ministry website or social media channels.

Our National Security Council was tweeting said SOPs near midnight a full day after the original MCO announcement.

The SOPs were haphazardly put together — insisting on the closure, of all things, self-service laundromats and opticians. 

Apparently no Cabinet minister has experienced the chagrin and mild panic that happens when you have a spectacles mishap. 

One particularly memorable incident for me was when I was leaning over a railing and one of my spectacle lenses decided to just fall out, several stories down, where I would never see it again intact.

Then there was telling us "No curfew!" and yet insisting eateries close at 8pm, despite them only offering takeaway and delivery.

I am beginning to suspect the Cabinet has been taken over by aliens as surely any Malaysian knows our national propensity to eat at all hours and often take dinner late?

What of people working shifts at odd hours or rushing home from work, as working from home isn't mandated for everyone?

Doctors on my social media have been bemoaning not being able to get anything to eat after clocking out because even the hospital minimart was closed.

If anyone suggests that maybe said doctors should have packed a meal, perhaps they should try working long hours in the midst of a pandemic where hospitals are basically right now ground zero.

I work from home and some days I have no energy to do more than make myself cup noodles; so imagine the physical and mental burdens our frontliners (cleaners included) need to face.

It's been a year. Our Cabinet, all our politicians, heck, most Malaysians should know how much a toll an MCO can take physically, mentally, financially.

Instead we get glib 4pm announcements where our prime minister declares, if you have problems repaying loans try and call your bank to see if it will give you any kind of reprieve. Bank says no? Well, that's apparently not the government's problem.

We keep being told to stay home, behave, follow the SOPs and yet it doesn't take long for photos on social media to surface of a certain minister doing gotong royong hundreds of kilometres away from his constituency.

It is frankly quite maddening.

I am not the only one feeling rather irate as the hashtag that trended on the day the PM announced Covid financial measures was #SiBodohKauDengarSini (Idiot, listen here).

The hashtag came about from the frustration of Malaysians struggling with limited food order times, but soon quickly became used to express dissatisfaction at the dismal financial aid being offered.

With people losing income, it is not the time to tell them to shop more online to help Malaysian businesses.

Like the government rehashed the MCO and the budget announcement, I ask, like I did last year, we are to shop with what money?

I was expecting at the very least the ridiculous RM50 one-time e-wallet incentive but no, our government thinks food baskets are a brilliant idea.

Full offence, but please toss that food basket idea out the window and just give people cash.

A food basket won't pay a utility bill, petrol or medical prescriptions -- things that also matter and might be of more dire need for some people.

We are already seeing destitute people begging at Johor bus stops; at this rate it's going to be a lot like the early days of the MCO where people and NGOs were mobilising to feed those cut off from income and supplies.

We should have learned that in times like these, even the M40 are not spared from food insecurity. 

It is ridiculous the government wants to form a committee now when we had a whole year to figure out how to best deal with the pandemic. 

"Stay home" just isn't going to be the magic panacea the government seems to think it is.

By the time this column is published I hope there will be a better roadmap for a way through these tough times, else we will have no choice but to hunker down and wait for the vaccines to save us — because it sure looks like the government won't.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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