What is there to celebrate when people are still dying?

Image from Maalysiakini

By Francis Paul Siah

FOLLOWING the death of a close family member, our mother or father for example, we will surely postpone any joyous family celebration for a period of time — several months or even a year.

No matter our race, culture, or the faith we profess, it is a common custom which most of us will adhere to. The mourning period is an event which we will observe without fail.

The period of grieving is observed by those most affected by the loss of a loved one. It is marked by withdrawal from social events and quiet, respectful behaviour. People usually follow their own religious traditions for such occasions.

Over the Covid-19 pandemic, we should all make a serious effort to observe the various stages of the movement control order (MCO) like a mourning period.

I believe that it is one of the most effective means to contain the virus. It is as simple as just staying at home and avoiding crowded places. That is all part of the standard operating procedures (SOPs) which we have been instructed to follow from Day One of the pandemic. These are simple rules and yet, we keep flouting them.

The pandemic is not going to go away, certainly not for a while yet. We are said to be still in the third wave with the more devastating fourth yet to come.

There were 10 fatalities on Sunday and on Monday, the death toll has reached 1,449 with 13 new deaths reported. The new deaths on Monday were recorded in Selangor (three), Sarawak (six), Sabah (two) and Kelantan and Johor one each.

Call to fellow Sarawakians

When people are dying, folks, what is there to celebrate? This is the message I wish to convey to my fellow Sarawakians today.

We have heard reports of how clusters erupted following gatherings at social events, be it weddings, birthdays, other family events or corporate functions.

These have happened in the cities as well as in the kampung and longhouses.

Such gatherings must stop immediately. There must be physical distancing at all times.

A wedding can be postponed. No need to celebrate a birthday; there will always be birthdays. So too an anniversary. Company events are a big ‘No’. Strict SOPs for funerals. That must be the rule from now on.

In this instant, I’m glad to hear that legal action is being pursued against the culprits who were responsible for the emergence of the recent SWAG Cluster after they were suspected of violating the SOPs.

Kuching City South Council (MBKS) mayor Datuk Wee Hong Seng said the case has entered the legal process and cautioned that once an outbreak occurs in the city centre such as Kuching, the situation is very hard to control.

It is the same everywhere. Like many of you, I am all for more stringent enforcement of the SOPs. Those who blatantly flout the rules should be hauled up immediately and fined accordingly. No double standards here, please.

Some time ago, we heard of a Kuching cluster after a socialite held a Halloween Night in her home. What a time for an unnecessary event like this! It’s true that there are many inconsiderate people around. I hope justice has been duly served in the case.

While there are many who dutifully abide by the SOPs and listen attentively to instructions from the health authorities, there are others who deliberately go against the law.

Ramadan bazaars a health hazard

Also, this week there was a report that more than 100 people in Bintulu who tested positive for Covid-19 since April 12 have gone missing after furnishing authorities with false personal particulars.

This is a case which should not have happened. Bintulu MP Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing advised them to turn up at the emergency department of Bintulu Hospital immediately, warning them that failure to do so will result in court action.

Fortunately, the media reported yesterday that the authorities have managed to trace the 100 people.

Right now, I am very worried for our Muslim friends who are observing Ramadan.

I think the ongoing Ramadan bazaars could be a health hazard.

Public health experts like epidemiologist Dr Malina Osman said activities that require people to remove their face masks or eat together in public should be deferred, including buka puasa events and going to parks and gyms.

She said if the current infection trend continued, the number of active Covid-19 cases could reach 50,000 and beyond by Hari Raya Aidilfitri in mid-May.

This is very worrying indeed.

Even if the government directs that all festive occasions should be celebrated low-key, the onus is still upon us to abide by the SOPs and act sensibly in our daily life and in our interaction with others.

When people are still dying from the pandemic around us, I’m in no celebratory mood whatsoever. Are you?

The safest and most sensible action is to stay home. If there is no urgent need to wander outside, just stay indoors.

Keep yourself and all your loved ones safe. That must remain the top priority.

This article first appeared in the New Sarawak Tribune