Why is Perlis under MCO while Sarawak is not? – Aziz Hassan

A deserted street in Kangar during the MCO – The Star photo

By Aziz Hassan

ONE news site has just written about the jitters within the business community regarding what is considered as the lack of a cohesive, comprehensive strategy to fight the Covid-19 pandemic beyond the various categories of movement control orders.

Before this a medical specialist who plays an active role in combatting the problem had expressed his reservations too and cautioned that Malaysia may end up in an endless cycle of MCOs.

Given the frequent shifts in decisions, the many flip-flops on the dos’ and don’ts, the sometimes inconsistent enforcement of the SOPs and the usual ambiguous or contradictory statements by officials, many people feel that just over a year after the first cases were confirmed in the country, we are still finding our way in these bleak times. Groping in the dark is more like it.

Not many are questioning the powers in the hands of the National Security Council or the Health Ministry, especially with the Emergency slated to last until August 1, but what people are asking for is clarity and decisions backed by common-sense and logic.

If business people, especially small retailers and those operating small eateries by the road or at stand-alone food courts feel aggrieved, imagine how confused people are in Perlis, that smallest state tucked away 500 kilometres to the north of Kuala Lumpur via the North-South Highway.

One can say that the number of Covid-19 cases there is proportionate to its size and population but work out the maths and you will see that it doesn’t always work out that way. In fact the numbers from Perlis are simply too small percentage-wise when compared with those from elsewhere.

This is why people from there find it so baffling that Senior Minister (Security) Ismail Sabri Yaakob should on January 19 put Perlis with five other states under MCO2 effective two days later but excluded Sarawak. The usual explanation was that it was based on the advice of and assessment by the Health Ministry.

But no matter how you look at it, the numbers simply don’t compute. Try other adjectives like mystifying, perplexing or bewildering and you still won’t go wrong. Not being given a plausible explanation by the officials only makes it worse.

Since the first cases were confirmed in the country, Perlis has always had to deal with only a few a day. On a bad day the total would go up to 15 or 16, as was the count last January 18, but you can count on your fingers how many times that has happened in the last 12 plus months.

In making that announcement, Ismail was to say that the rise in community infections had turned Kangar into a red zone with 51 cases reported in 14 days. He got that wrong but it’s such a tiny blip in the overall context that I won’t take issue with that. There were three bad days at that time but the infections were mainly centred on one family that was at a feast. Since then the daily numbers have been back to normal, that is in the small single digit.

Let’s scrutinise some of the numbers:

As we went into that announcement day of January 19, Perlis had 114 cases and that was the total for almost a year. Sarawak’s total then? 2,367. The numbers for Sarawak and the six states included under the extension to MCO2 are given below.

Let’s go a step further and look at the infections from January 26 to February 2.

Total infections in Perlis for the eight days: 23, with no case confirmed on two days.

Sarawak? A total of 1,177. Go figure.

The total for Perlis since January 25 last year until yesterday was 177 with two deaths while for Sarawak it was 4,824 with 42 deaths.

After people in Perlis realised the unfairness of the announcement on January 19 and having tracked the daily infections in Sarawak, the expectation was that Perlis will be excluded in the latest extension and in its place, Sarawak. Imagine their disbelief when Ismail announced on Tuesday that it would be status quo until February 18.

Again, without a plausible explanation or clear logic, the perception is always about politics and not science coming into the equation.

This piece first appeared in The Mole. The views here do not necessarily represent those of this portal.