A dose of public pressure, coupled with the seemingly rare commodity called conscience, can make a difference to politics and especially the lives of ordinary people. Well, at least in the case of Italy.
Which is why it was heartening to learn that a mayor of a small town in Italy’s Sicily region finally resigned in the face of public outrage following his controversial action of jumping queue for the Covid-19 vaccination.
Bowing to public pressure and perhaps the weight of his conscience, 78-year-old Nicolo Nicolosi stepped down even though he felt that getting the vaccination was the right thing to do to safeguard himself and his city councillors against the virus, given their official functions of dealing with the public.
This Italian situation is instructive. There’s an air of entitlement that surrounds this case, which mirrors the situation in our society where there have been complaints of queue-jumping by certain people who think they are important enough to get the Covid-19 vaccine before others, particularly frontliners workers and the vulnerable.
Queue-jumping is unethical and selfish, especially when it is at the expense of those who urgently need the vaccination and whose work directly exposes them to the deadly virus. It is likely that the needs of these vulnerable people far outweigh the narrow interests of the queue-jumpers.
In short, lives may be at stake when vaccination is “delayed” to some people who deserve and need it most.
It is only appropriate that such selfish cohorts be penalised, especially when their conscience does not seem to be working.
The Health Ministry has just announced that those who jump queue for vaccination will be fined up to RM50,000 or jailed for six months or both, under the new Section 31 of the Emergency (Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases) (Amendment) Ordinance 2021, which will come into effect on 11 March.
This came about in the wake of several complaints of attempts to jump the queue. In particular, consultant physician and nephrologist Dr Rafidah Abdullah had highlighted complaints that officials from the Kelantan state secretariat were trying to make the leap.
The complaints appeared serious enough to prompt Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin to call on whistleblowers to come forward to register their complaints with the authorities.
Any attempt to put a gag on hospital staff from highlighting alleged cases of queue-jumping may not solve the problem. If anything, it may enhance suspicion that there is some truth to these allegations, which is worrying.
In many ways, this queue-jumping is symptomatic of a culture of entitlement that has infected certain strata of society, particularly those who have the power and influence, to the extent that rules and regulations are often pushed aside at our collective peril.
There are already cries of “antara dua darjat” or double standards being employed in the national vaccination programme from people who feel disadvantaged by the system.
In a vital project such as vaccination, a fast lane should only be allocated to those who truly deserve immediate medical attention as any delay could be catastrophic, especially when the virus does not give two hoots about titles and social status.
Let common sense and civility prevail in our fight against the menace. – The Malaysian Insight