The Association for Community and Dialogue is concerned about the social narrative that is led by politicians and elites that seems to be more focused on the numbers infected by the coronavirus and the economic situation, without a corresponding concern for the poor and marginalised communities.
While the numbers affected are important statistics, which has been rightly done, it is also vital to balance this with concrete reports on the plight of marginalised communities.
They can be foreign migrant labourers and those who are staying in cramped flats where they might have difficulty adhering to social distancing and going through a medical test if they carry symptoms of the the disease
There is a need to address some of those needs of the marginalised communities whose living conditions could be prone to the spread of the virus, besides their incomes being affected due to unpaid leave.
Furthermore, foreign workers may have to pay for check-ups in government hospitals, and many of them might not have the cash. They might be reluctant to seek medical help especially at odd hours when their agents are not around.
The Ministry of Human Resources should initiate a meeting with agents of foreign workers and see the kind of help that could be offered to address their plight.
The practical things that could be looked into are access to face masks; assurance of free, efficient tests and treatment in government and private hospitals; and the workers’ socioeconomic plight since they are told to take unpaid leave.
There is a need for a balanced perspective so that no want is left out and no stone left unturned in combating this demonic virus that is taking a toll on the social wellbeing of all Malaysians and migrant workers.
The strength of a nation is not so much about the wealth it has but how it treats the poor and the marginalised in normal and trying times. Efficient and effective access to disease prevention equipment, medical tests and treatment is paramount.