Tweaking SOP for trouble

There should only be one rule for everyone if this fight against the pandemic is to be effective and taken seriously

Sketch by Wong Soak Koon/Aliran

Ordinary Malaysians are generally upset by ministers and their deputies who practise and flaunt double standards in the enforcement of the standard operating procedure under the movement-control order.

That is why social media users were up in arms recently, calling on Health Minister Adham Baba to resign for having relaxed the mandatory Covid-19 quarantine for his cabinet colleagues who returned from their official overseas trips.

Ministers are now to undergo only a three-day quarantine instead of the required 10, which means they are exempted from Section 15 of the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act effective from 9 February. Additionally, ministers could also undergo surveillance until being discharged without danger to the public.

Under heavy public criticism, Adham later said that the exemption may be subsequently applied to business travellers and later to ordinary people. The travelling ministers are to be subjected to supposedly stringent itineraries if they are allowed the exemption to minimise exposure to the virus.

But this rationale did not seem to appease the public who are deeply concerned about the new ruling not being backed by science, especially when Adham said that this was not about science totally. Besides, what are the chances of the ministers adhering strictly to the stringent rules, given the past incidents of flouting the standard operating procedure among them?

It is also noteworthy that the general medical knowledge has it that the incubation period can take up to 14 days.

The exemption did not go down well with ordinary Malaysians, particularly at a time when the rate of Covid-19 infections as well as deaths was on the rise recently.

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It is well understood by ordinary Malaysians that the standard operating procedure is to be strictly adhered to by everyone, irrespective of their social status, in the common goal to curb the pandemic. Hence, tweaking the procedure in this hurried manner by the ruling elite, who set the rules in the first place, would predictably cause anxiety and displeasure among the people.

The repercussions of this exemption are serious. In their line of duty, ministers are likely to interact with people. They will have meetings with their respective officers, as well as encounter visitors and members of the media. This is not to mention the impact on their immediate families.

You can imagine the colossal harm that could be unleashed if a minister has been exposed to the virus abroad, especially if the new strains are contracted.

As has been said time and again, this vicious coronavirus cuts deep into our society, boldly defying any ethnic, cultural, gender and religious boundaries as well as age and social status. In other words, there is no special immunity for anyone as far as the virus is concerned.

As regards violating the standard operating procedure, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin once said that he’d use the rotan (cane), if need be, to rein in recalcitrant ministers and to prevent double standards in law enforcement.

That warning doesn’t seem to deter his ministers. A few ministers had already violated the standard operating procedure, including Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali, whose return from a hushed trip to Turkey last year became controversial. In short, ministers go scot-free.

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What irks many people is that their concern about double standards has been ignored contemptuously by the powers that be.

Whatever the case may be, there should only be one rule for everyone if this fight against the pandemic is to be effective and taken seriously. – The Malaysian Insight

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