Psalm 57:1 (NIV)
Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.
Today, at the stroke of midnight 18 March 2020, Malaysia closed its borders in an effort to contain the Covid-19 virus pandemic. The Movement Control Order mandates the closing of two busy land borders with Singapore and Thailand. The Causeway and Second Link were the site of chaos as thousands made their way to Singapore before the deadline. Some were Singaporeans but most were Malaysians who are working to Singapore. The Order is for 14 days so these were expecting to be separated from their families for this period at least. After this date, Malaysia will not admit anyone from other countries. Malaysians will be admitted and immediately placed into 14 days quarantine. These draconian measures are necessary as the Malaysian government struggles to contain the wildfire of COVID-19 which has claimed 2 lives, with 673 infected persons. In the two months since the world has become aware of this new virus, SARS-CoV 2, it has created havoc in the world especially in China, South Korea, and Iran. It is presently ravaging Italy and the rest of Europe, killing and infecting thousands of people.
Malaysia and Singapore have a strong shared history. In fact, at one time, they were one political entity. Political, economically and relationally, there is a strong bond between them. Many Malaysians and Singaporeans have relatives in both countries and the family bond is strong. People travel between these two countries in huge numbers daily. So it was not an easy decision for the Malaysian government to impose a partial lockdown of the house country. This is the first time since world war two it was closed. It was indeed a historic day. The aim was to keep everyone at home to prevent the spread of the disease while healthcare workers identify, track, and treat the infected persons. It involves the shutdown of all businesses except for those providing essential services. It requires the population not to travel but self-distance or self-isolate until the virus dies out or its spread plateau. It was a drastic measure for a dire situation.
The social project of this scale requires the active participation of the Malaysian people. It cannot depend on punitive punishment from the police or army to force people to act. No doubt it will involve a change of lifestyle. It will be destructive for all businesses especially the small ones. The people are called to have a long view and to sacrifice for the short gains. If the virus is not contained, it is estimated that it will infect 60% of the population of Malaysia and kill thousands of people. Those at the highest risk will be the elderly and those with lower immunity such as diabetes, cancer, heart diseases, people on dialysis, and other chronic illnesses.
Today, we closed our borders in the hope that the Covid-19 pandemic in Malaysia will be contained. We call on all Malaysians to be united in this fight for our survival. A pandemic running wild will cause chaos. We ask for prayers for this endeavour for our national survival.
May God has mercy on us.
18 March 2020