LETTER | Don't mistake policy changes for inefficiency

KH Loh

Modified 16 Nov 2020, 4:15 am

LETTER | As a change management consultant, I read with horrid the attacks on social media against the government on the changes to the Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs).

The latest frenzy revolves around the government's decision to increase the number of people in a car from two to three. Before this, there were discrepancies in the ruling involving private vehicles and ride-hailing ones.

While the passenger cap on the former was two, the latter was three, including the driver. In any event, authorities like the police have the discretion to give leeway on a case-by-case basis.

Prior to that was the confusion surrounding whether or not we need to scan the MySejahtera app at petrol kiosks. Many were upset with the perceived constant changes in policies and SOPs.

In my line of work, change should not be seen as a "problem" but something which can help us thrive. With the unprecedented pandemic, upon not just Malaysia but globally, change is inevitable.

We have no choice but to adapt to the "new norm" just to stay alive, for example, to wear a face mask when we go out. The "new norms" should not be seen as a static rule-book, but one that is alive and constantly evolving.

Unfortunately, due to our limited ability to effectively stem the rapid spread of the deadly coronavirus, and the socio-economic global havoc it has wrecked, there are no textbook solutions on what constitutes the "new norm".

Under such circumstances, we have no choice but to constantly adapt and change with the rapidly-evolving information on Covid-19. For example, when the virus first hit our shores, patients were quarantined until they tested negative for Covid-19, even if they no longer displayed any symptoms. This was why some patients stayed in hospitals for months on end, back then.

But subsequently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) discovered that a 10-day quarantine was sufficient as the positive reading on patients who had been isolated for the duration, was due to virus shedding.

This was when Malaysia reduced the mandatory quarantine for patients to 14 days, four days more than the WHO recommendation.

So, are we going to say that the government and the National Security Council (NSC) keep making U-turns on policies? Or that they are inefficient and indecisive? Have we adopted arm-chair criticising as our national sport?

By nature, humans are resistant to change. Change is disruptive and up-ends our plans. But just as how our ancestors could have starved to death had they not resorted to irrigating their crops in an unusually dry year, we too need to move with the times or risk a worse calamity.

We have to accept that under the Covid-19 "new normal", change is not just constant but rapid. We are not just dealing with a voluminous amount of information that evolves when we discover more about this new virus. We are also dealing with the global socio-economic impact caused by the outbreak.

In other words, our Covid-19 SOPs require constant tweaking and this should not be seen as being inconsistent or inefficient. We just have to keep abreast of the latest developments. This is just the way it is in our war against the unseen enemy that is the coronavirus.

And if we can't adapt quickly enough to the changes or are annoyed with the rapidly-evolving rules, the least we can do is not to make snide remarks and dampen the morale of those who put their hearts and souls into keeping us safe during this global pandemic.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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