By Lim Sue Goan, Sin Chew Daily
There are two human attitudes that are best avoided in the uncompromising battle against the novel coronavirus: excessive panic and putting people last.
Excessive panic can spawn irrational moves, for example hoarding of face masks. As a matter of fact, we do not need a huge stock of face masks for personal use. Hoarding of face masks will only deny people who need them most, in particular patients and individuals who need to take care of infected patients at the hospital.
There are ten face mask manufacturers in the country and these manufacturers have promised to increase their daily output by 400,000 pieces to meet the unusual demand. Nevertheless, if the hoarding continues, even a daily increase of one million pieces will not meet the illogical demand because the demand for face masks now is over a hundred times that of usual period.
This phenomenon is by no means exclusive to Malaysia, as the problem persists in many other countries and territories. Taiwanese have been lining up for hours to buy face masks even though their country is the world's third largest producer and their government has enforced a purchase quota.
WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned of depletion of face masks and other personal protective equipment in the fight against the coronavirus, and that the world is bracing for a sustained shortage of such equipment.
Protective equipment should be made accessible to medical personnel and stockpiling such equipment will not help put the outbreak under control any time soon.
Another form of panic is in the stockpiling of dried foods and daily necessities such as toilet paper. Many Singaporeans started hoarding daily necessities after their government declared an orange alert for the coronavirus outbreak. Supermarket shelves island-wide have been instantly emptied by anxious shoppers while some hopped over to JB over the weekend to snatch up goods.
Why do Singaporeans show little faith in their government which is widely known for its exemplary efficiency in tackling an emergency? They are definitely much more than just being kiasu or kiasi but are showcasing an ignorant lack of reasonability. What if their unreasonable shopping craze has caused an acute depletion of daily necessities that is poised to sidetrack the government's effort in battling the virus to worry about the supply of daily necessities for its people? Little wonder PM Lee Hsien Loong said fear and panic could do more harm than the virus itself.
In addition, widespread panic has also kept the people off the streets, dampening the consumer sentiment and aggravating the local economy.
It is sad that when the virus is posing real threats to human health, our politicians care little to go on with their political game, fighting for more power and status without taking the people's interest into consideration.
It has been rumored that PPBM is prepared to seal a new alliance called "Pakatan Nasional" with Umno and PAS in order to form a new government. Although the claim has been refuted by PPBM chairman Tun Mahathir, Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and PKR president Anwar Ibrahim, PAS president Hadi Awang says he agrees in principle to a "Pakatan Nasional" government made up of political parties from both sides of the divide.
As a matter of fact, a "back door" government is no more a novelty in this country. Last October, four Pakatan component parties issued a statement to warn former Umno vice president Hishammuddin Hussein and his allies to stop any move to set up a new government without DAP and Amanah. It is understandable that "Save Mahathir" is a sustained operation meant to block Anwar from taking over as prime minister.
It is not easy to form a new government. Otherwise it wouldn't have taken them so many months and not arriving at a conclusive agreement because of the vast differences among individual parties. Sarawak's GPS will not okay a theocratic Umno-PAS alliance while Warisan is vying for political dominance in Sabah with PPBM. Warisan president Shafie Apdal is believably more inclined towards a pact which can more effectively counter Mahathir's powers.
The power struggle will only pick up over time. PAS has planned to table a confidence vote for the PM in an attempt to split the ruling coalition, when the Dewan Rakyat sitting resumes in March. Meanwhile, Perak executive councilor Abdul Aziz Bari has said PH elected reps must take the initiative to voice their support for Anwar Ibrahim as prime minster, and that Mahathir must resign if Anwar secures the support of at least 112 MPs.
At a time when the health ministry is doing everything to contain the spread of the coronavirus while relevant government departments have called on companies to discuss an effective stimulus package, any political turmoil or the collapse of the PH government will defeat the effort to fight the virus and stimulate the national economy.
Why can't the politicians put their differences aside at this crucial moment to ensure political stability? They should join hands to fight the virus and calm the people down instead of starting new political ploys as if the interest of the country and her people is of little concern to them.
We need to have the right posture and an additional dose of positive energy to win this war against the virus. We will encounter an even more dreadful challenge than the virus itself if we embrace evil, greed and selfishness.