Monday, March 30, 2020

Charging the jogging doctor is too much

Doctor argues that it's not a curfew
Recently, I wrote a blog posting that says it's very clear that the authorities don't want us to go out for a jog during these times. I made it clear that I think one should not flout these rules. Even if one can argue the point that the Movement Control Order is not a curfew, it's pretty obvious we should not be jogging during this time.

Now, we learn that the doctor who created a bit of a ruckus when asked to stop jogging, is being charged with two offences. I personally thought he should have just obeyed the officers when they asked him to go back home but to charge him for jogging, especially when the incident happened when the lock-down was still so new, is way over the top.

At the time, it really was not clear what was allowed and what was not. As the doctor had pointed out in his exchange with the officers, the MCO is not a curfew. And at that time nowhere was it explicitly stated that jogging alone was against the law. Subsequent to that, yes, it was made pretty obvious that people should just stay home unless they were going out to buy groceries or medicine etc. But in the early days it really was not clear.

Just give him a warning lah...

Covid-19: Better to over-prepare

We have enough beds even if there's a spike in Covid-19 new infections

The government has prepared 19,200 beds just in case new infections go into overload. Will we need that many beds? Hopefully not. But with Covid-19, it's always better to over-prepare than under-prepare.

Compared to the numbers in Europe (infections, death), we don't have it so bad. The new infection rate hasn't really changed. We're still getting over 100 new infections per day and at least one death per day. So, the disease hasn't started waning yet. But it hasn't spiked up either.

Who knows when the tipping point for it to start waning will happen. The government has extended the lock-down to mid-April only, so the calculation must be that by then, we will see very few or perhaps no new infections. Is this possible? China has show that it can be. Wuhan has achieved no new local infections. This gives us hope.

We read about people who violate the lock-down but most people are complying. This is what is necessary in order to break the chain of infection. Hopefully by mid-April or shortly thereafter the virus will run out of new people to infect due to this lock-down.

Our lock-down is not as severe as in some European countries like Italy and France where you have to fill out forms if you want to go outside. But ours is pretty stringent, as it should be. If you want to have a lock-down, you might as well have a proper lock-down.

If that means we can't go jogging for the time being, so be it. I'm all for a stringent lock-down. Imagine how much more disruptive and dangerous it would be if our situation were to become like Italy's. That thought alone should scare the living daylights out of you and convince you to stay home.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Stayin' In

I'm sure by now you've seen that viral video of a doctor arguing with some enforcement officials about whether he should be allowed to exercise outside. While this was the most publicized account of the differing opinions about whether people are allowed to exercise outside during the lock-down (or Movement Control Order, to be more formal), apparently there is still quite a lot of disagreement among segments of the population about this matter.

I recently received a message from a friend who said in her neighborhood there's quite a lot of debate about this matter, with some arguing that it's not allowed while others believing that it is.

While the initial announcement of the lock-down was not very clear on this -- and the doctor was technically correct in pointing out that the MCO is not a curfew -- it's pretty obvious by now that we shouldn't be going outside unless it's to buy groceries, go to the pharmacy, go to the clinic, etc. The so-called "essential" stuff.

We haven't yet reached a point like in France or Italy where you have to fill out a form whenever you want to go out to do something but if you've been following the news and listening to what the leaders are saying, it's basically, "Don't go outside unless it's absolutely necessary".

In my neighborhood, people are still taking their dogs outside to let them ease themselves and older folks can still be seen going outside for fresh air and perhaps a brisk walk around the neighborhood. So far, nobody's objecting as far as I can tell.

I think some people will starting voicing their displeasure if somebody starts jogging or cycling around the neighborhood though. Not that jogging solo or cycling solo is endangering anybody but it goes against the whole "stay at home" spirit that the government is trying to impose, for our own good.

Somehow, just taking your dog out for a brief moment or stepping outside for a short walk just doesn't seem like a flagrant disregard for the lock-down in the way that jogging or cycling appear to be.

There's no need to argue about the legality of this matter, about whether the MCO is actually a curfew or not (it's not). As I had mentioned earlier, it's clear by now that we should be staying in as much as we can.

I don't think this is unreasonable if we want to contain this virus or at least prevent it from overwhelming our health system the way it has done in Italy. In fact, I wouldn't even object if the government felt it was necessary to impose a strict curfew.

Sam Harris, in his Making Sense podcast, said that the challenging thing about this Covid-19 situation is that the things you need to do to contain the virus would always seem over-kill at the time it needs to be done and by the time it's obvious that these things need to be done, it's already too late.

For example, the time to shut down schools is before any kid gets the virus. But if you did that early on, some people would say that's an over-reaction. Of course by the time one or two kids get the virus, everybody would agree you need to close the school. But by then, those kids would have infected someone.

You're seeing this play out in the US where governors of badly afflicted states are reluctant to order a strict shut-down. As a result, millennials were still going to the beach and living it up. You've probably seen that famous clip of some teen saying, "If I get Corona, I get Corona... that's not going to stop me partying."

Why don't they just issue a lock-down and ban people from going out like they've done in Italy, Spain and France? Because it's hugely unpopular. People will think it's overkill. Of course when scores of people start getting the virus and the death toll starts rising at an alarming rate, no one will object to it but by then it's too late.

So, I feel if we need to clamp down on this thing, let's clamp down on this thing and do it right. Be strict and do what's necessary to cut off new infections. We might as well do it now and things will get better sooner rather than later. If we drag our feet and do half measures, it will only prolong this thing.

If it means we need to get the army involved with soldiers (not carrying guns) helping the police ensure that the lock-down is observed, I'm all for that. After all, people are still defying the lock-down.

And if it means I can't jog outside and instead have to jog on my treadmill (or if I don't have a treadmill, jog in place or do push-ups or whatever), so be it. That's a small inconvenience compared to what we will have to face if Malaysia becomes like Italy.

Let's bear the inconvenience and hardship now. Just stay at home and cut off the chain of infection. No need to argue on technical grounds whether a lock-down constitutes a curfew etc, etc. Now is not the time to argue the letter of the law but rather to live by the spirit of the law.

Just stay at home as much as possible so that the lock-down doesn't have to be prolonged.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Muhyiddin & Azmin's poor timing

I'm not one of those who are critical of the current government for the way it is handling the Covid-19 situation. Sure, the implementation of the lock-down was rushed and not well thought out. But as I had mentioned in my previous post, time is not exactly on our side. They had to act and they had to act fast. Improvements and modifications to the measures would have to be made as we go along.

But speaking of timing, Muhyiddin and Azmin couldn't have chosen a worse time to do their Sheraton Move. The country -- and the world, for that matter -- is almost certain to go into a recession due to the Covid-19 crisis which doesn't look like it will abate anytime soon.

Even if they do everything right from now on, the economy is going to go into a tailspin. The retail and service sector has pretty much ground to a halt and the outlook for the rest of the year (even after the lockdown is lifted) isn't rosey. Lots of people are going to lose their jobs. Lots of small businesses will close down.

No doubt, this isn't just a Malaysian phenomenon. It's happening all over the world. But as Bill Clinton's campaign once famously said: "It's the economy, stupid." If people are in dire straits come GE15, they will blame the government or at least want to boot them out in favor of an alternative that gives them hope for a better life.

They chose the timing to do their Sheraton Move. They will bear the consequences of it. Karma may not be instant but there's no escaping it.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

The lock-down is a necessary, good move

I've been critical of the Sheraton Move that resulted in the backdoor government being set up by Muhyiddin and Azmin but since March 14, I've not written any new blog postings about this topic. I was too caught up with the Covid-19 crisis which seemed to be worsening by the day.

I've seen some criticism online about how this lock-down was not well thought out and so on. While I'm critical about how this Perikatan government was formed (legal but not ethical), I am not critical of their decision to quickly implement this lock-down.

I've watched videos of several experts saying that speed is crucial. You can't wait until everything is perfect to take action. The virus is spreading like crazy. You have to do something and do it fast. You can improve the implementation along the way. And that is being done.

Initially there was a lot of confusion about what is considered essential and what is non-essential. There have also been some U-turns about whether university students should go home or stay put; about whether inter-state travel requires a police permit or not, or whether it's even allowed for non-essential situations. All this is understandable when you want to quickly implement something fast. So, I am not critical of it.

The natural question on everybody's mind is whether this lock-down actually end on March 31. Muhyiddin has gone on TV to say that if necessary it will be extended. I suspect that if the situation pretty much stays the same, with over 100 new cases per day, it has to be extended. If the situation worsens -- even more new cases and more deaths -- then not only will it have to be extended, it probably has to be tightened up further. Perhaps like in Italy.

Businesses are suffering. Lots of people will lose their jobs. The economy will most likely go into a recession. But what's the alternative? No lock-down? That would result in something even worse. Imagine if we become like Italy or Spain.

This is from yesterday:

Italy on Wednesday reported 475 more deaths from the coronavirus, a new record high that brings the total number of victims in the country to 2,978.

Latest figures provided by the Italian Civil Protection Department show that COVID-19 cases in the country have now reached 28,710, a 10% rise from Tuesday.

The Italian government is mulling over whether to further strengthen its already strict containment measures, which have brought the country to a near-total lockdown.

And this too

A locked-down Spain continued to edge closer to Iran as health officials announced Wednesday more than 2,500 coronavirus cases were recorded overnight, bringing up the tally well past 13,000.
Health officials reported there were 2,538 additional COVID-19 cases across Spain since Tuesday, bringing the rally to at least 13,716. There have been at least 558 deaths nationwide.

It's all pretty grim news. Let's just hope this first lock-down works and there is a decline in new cases because if it gets worse, we are looking at a longer and more severe lock-down. And it would be necessary.