By Sarawakian

The speed in which a viral infection explodes into your daily life is unprecedented. This situation at first reminded me of the terrible Nipah Virus which struck Malaysia in September 1998 till May 1999. It was reported that there were 265 cases and 105 deaths. The disease affected pig farming and also many families who lost their loved ones. The Nipah Virus according to the World Health Organization (WHO) had between 40% – 75% case fatality rate. It is also known as the “NiV”.

At that time many pig farms had to close and major culling was done. Economic losses and emotional losses were high for the farmers. Until today, there is no drug or vaccine for that virus. The fruit bat is the natural host. Its saliva and tissue contact contaminates fruits. Remnants of fruits fallen on the ground are eaten by pigs in their sty. It then infected humans. This again showed that it spread not only between animals but also from animal to human and from human to human. In 2011, a movie called “Contagion” released which was based on this virus albeit another reference name. A stark reminder if watched today of how bad things can be.

Fast forward and on 1st December 2019, we have this mysterious virus which began in Wuhan, China. The WHO, on 31st December 2019 was informed by China of “cases of pneumonia of unknown etiology (unknown cause) detected in Wuhan”. That was the first alarm. Then on 11th January 2020, it was reported that China informed WHO of the first fatality. This was another alarm. The Chinese New Year celebration was subdued and major activities curtailed as for the first time; China instituted their lockdowns on 23rd January 2020 of Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province.

On 30th January 2020, the WHO for their sixth time in history, declared a “public health emergency of international concern”. This new “Novel Coronavirus” was at times also called the “Wuhan Virus” was officially named as “COVID-19” on 11th February 2020. Over a month later, on 13th March 2020, the WHO declared that “COVID-19” was a pandemic. It was that serious as the situation was not defined as being endemic or an epidemic but, a pandemic.

On 16th March 2020 at 10pm, Malaysia was informed by the 8th Prime Minister that the “Restricted Movement Order” would begin on 18th March 2020 until 31st March 2020. It has evolved in name to be called the “Movement Control Order”. Perhaps this new name was seen to be less harsh. Life has changed for many of us since that fateful day. We were still up to that point of time engrossed in the sudden change of Government which we did not vote for. This created a pause. A pause much needed.

Politics would still play in the background but less obvious as people start to adjust themselves. The first stimulus plan announced by Tun Mahathir as the interim Prime Minister (post 7th Prime Minister post) on 27th February 2020 had a value of RM20 billion. On 25th March 2020 at 1pm we heard the 8th Prime Minister announce the extension of the “Movement Control Order” or MCO till 14th April 2020. On the 27th March 2020, the 8th Prime Minister unveiled a RM250 billion Stimulus Package. Interestingly and not related, the USA would take over China as the most infected country the next day. I guess Trump finally Trump-ed China.

It has indeed been a roller coaster ride for everyone. It still is and no one can see a definite end. It was a shocking experience in the beginning which sparked debates and buying of toilet paper. Shortly thereafter, it became sort of a celebration to many when they no longer work in the office as required by the MCO. Very soon it would start to hit you and you start to face anxiety and then frustration as the days go by.

With the 27th March 2020 Stimulus speech, we would find ourselves suddenly inspired. I am sure that soon one would achieve self awareness, and then accept life forward as a norm. You would accept that this is the now and the past cannot tell you what would happen for the future.

This was the speech by Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, the 8th Prime Minister of Malaysia that aims to inspire with admission.

“Ladies and gentlemen,

We are a nation at war with invisible forces. The situation we are now facing is unprecedented in history. And, this Government may not be the Government that you voted for. But I want all of you to know that this Government cares for you. I accepted the fact that I came in as your Prime Minister not at the best moment. I face political, economic and health crisis all at the same time.

This unprecedented situation of course requires unprecedented measures. So, my dear brothers and sisters, and the children of this beloved country, whether you are a Malay, Chinese, Indian, Sikh, Iban, Kadazan, Dusun, orang asal, please bear with me and my friends in the Cabinet and the Government. We are not perfect but we are doing the best we can to pull through this crisis together, as one nation. God willing, we will come out stronger when this crisis ends and the dust settles. InsyaAllah.

 I seek the support from all of you, let us join forces together to overcome this crisis.”

As you read this article today in the safety of your home, we have to remember that this viral infection began with wild life much like the Nipah Virus (NiV). The previous thought that an animal to animal transmission or an animal to human transmission only is no longer valid. It has, like the Nipah Virus evolved into the ability to have a human to human infection as an extension.

Let us all get through this and I hope all politicians now stand united (if I recall this was actually what Tun M wanted. A Unity Government) in fighting this virus alongside the over 32 million people and near 16 million working population. We salute the front liners in the medical profession. We salute the current excellent DG of Health, Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, a post he held since 1st February 2008. He also served the Health Minister, Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad and both Dr S. Subramanian and Dato Seri Liow Tiong Lai of the previous two governments.  His calm demeanour and excellent knowledge in answering the media without fear but facts is so refreshing.

So folks let us #stayathome and #dudukrumah during this time. Please stay safe and go wash your hands often.